GENEVA (16 May 2014) – “Interference with water supplies even in the context of an ongoing conflict is entirely unacceptable,” warned today two UN experts* on the rights to water and sanitation, and to health, expressing concern that “large numbers of residents of the city of Aleppo have been forced to use non-potable water, making many ill.”
“Depriving people of their right to access safe water, not only denies them a basic and fundamental human right, but also an essential element to support life and health,” stressed the experts. They added that “if deliberate, the targeting of a civilian population to deprive it of essential supplies such as water is a matter of very serious concern, and a clear breach of both international humanitarian and human rights law which binds all parties.”
Reportedly, the city of Aleppo has had intermittent access to water from the beginning of May 2014, with a total cut in supply on 10 May resulting in many, perhaps a million people left without access to safe water and sanitation. This affected homes, hospitals and medical centres. The cuts appeared to come about as a result of deliberate interference with the water supply, with conflicting allegations suggesting that some armed opposition groups and the Government of Syria have both been responsible at different times and to differing degrees.
“All parties to the conflict must take immediate steps to ensure that the water supply in Aleppo is permanently restored, and prevent any further interference with access to potable water, and other vital supplies. Relevant UN bodies and concerned States with influence over those parties must make that clear to them,” the experts said.
“Blatant disregard for human rights and humanitarian law cannot be justified by conflict,” they stressed.
(*) The experts: the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Anand Grover and the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque.
The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to help States, and others, promote and protect the right to the highest attainable standard of health (right to health). Anand Grover (India) is co-founder and Director of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit and the Senior Counsel in India. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.aspx
Catarina de Albuquerque is the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. She was appointed by the Human Rights Council in 2008. Ms. de Albuquerque is a Professor at the Law Faculties of the Universities of Braga, Coimbra and of the American University’s Washington College of Law. She is a senior legal advisor at the Prosecutor General’s Office. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/WaterAndSanitation/SRWater/Pages/SRWaterIndex.aspx