Yet another United Nations official has expressed outrage at the worsening humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. Stephen O’Brien, under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs at the UN, on Wednesday launched a stinging attack on his own organization’s Security Council — and in particular Russia — for its failure to prevent the atrocities. O’Brien was unreserved in his criticism, calling the council’s response to Aleppo “our generation’s shame.”
The remarks came hours after an attack on a school in the rebel-held Idlib province near Aleppo in northeast Syria. The attack reportedly killed 22 children and six teachers — an attack which another UN official called an outrage. It follows a string of intensified clashes in Aleppo this week after Russia’s unilateral cease-fire ended Saturday night.
“This is a tragedy. It is an outrage. And if deliberate, it is a war crime,” UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said in a statement. “This latest atrocity may be the deadliest attack on a school since the war began more than five years ago.”
O’Brien is not alone in his alarm. Wednesday’s comments come less than a week after U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, urged major powers at the U.N. to refer the situation in Aleppo to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called the barrage of bombings on eastern Aleppo “crimes of historic proportions,” and said that “the ancient city” had been transformed into a “slaughterhouse.” The Human Rights Watch has called the Security Council’s response to Aleppo an “abject failure.”
Russia responded to O’Brien’s criticism by denouncing the allegations. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called O’Brien’s account “unfair and dishonest,” and added that O’Brien should leave his comments “for the novel you’re going to write some day.”