The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Sunday it now considers the conflict in Syria to be a full-blown civil war, meaning international humanitarian law applies throughout the country.
Also known as the rules of war, international humanitarian law grants parties to a conflict the right to use appropriate force to achieve their aims, and the Geneva-based group’s assessment is an important reference for those parties to determine how much and what type of force they can use.
The assessment also can form the basis for war crimes prosecutions, especially if civilians are attacked or detained enemies are abused or killed.
“We are now talking about a non-international armed conflict in the country,” ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said.
Previously, the ICRC had restricted its assessment of the scope of the conflict to the hotspots of Idlib, Homs and Hama, but Hassan said the organization had determined the violence has spread beyond those areas.
“Hostilities have spread to other areas of the country,” Hassan told the Associated Press. “International humanitarian law applies to all areas where hostilities are taking place.”
Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr on Sunday called on Russia to support the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from office, following the latest massacre which rebels blame on regime troops.
“President Assad must go, and the way of getting rid of him is for Russia to exert its influence in Damascus and for Russia to vote in favour of comprehensive sanctions in the UN Security Council,” he told reporters.
“With him gone you can have negotiations between other components of the regime in Damascus and the opposition – all elements of the opposition,” he said.
Carr was at Borobudur temple in Central Java as part of his official visit to Indonesia, ahead of talks with senior officials in Jakarta this week.
Activists say more than 150 people were killed in last week’s deadly attack on the Syrian village of Treimsa, which has sparked international outcry and added urgency to deadlocked Security Council negotiations on a Syria resolution.
Western nations have proposed a resolution that would impose sanctions on the Assad regime over the conflict, which rights activists say has cost more than 17,000 lives.
They also want to give the UN observer mission a new mandate, but for only 45 days. Their mandate ends on July 20.
Russia has rejected as unacceptable any use of sanctions.