Syria – White Helmets – Joint statement by Jean-Marc Ayrault and Frank Walter Steinmeier (December 9, 2016)

International Human Rights Day on December 10 calls upon all of us to defend the rights of the Syrian people.

We are deeply concerned by reports that civilians involved in civil protection and civil administration groups in the eastern part of Aleppo are being arrested, tortured and sometimes killed by elements associated with the regime when they try to leave the city.

Members of organizations such as the White Helmets, to whom France and Germany awarded the French-German Prize for Human Rights this year, risk their lives every day to help other people survive. We pay tribute to their courage and their selflessness.

We call on the regime and its supporters to guarantee the safe evacuation of the members of the White Helmets who want to leave. Civilians must be allowed to escape the war zone safely and without hindrance. Under international humanitarian law, there are strict legal obligations to protect civilians in situations of armed conflict.