UN Security Council must act to end repression in Syria

The UN Security Council meets to discuss the situation in Syria today © Demotix

By Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International

Majd Al Kurdy was a junior member of Syria’s ruling Baath party in the small town of Tell Kalakh near the border with Lebanon.

One day in May, at an anti-government demonstration, he took a megaphone and announced to the crowd “I announce my resignation from the corrupt Ba’th Party!”

Days later, on 17 May, Syrian forces dragged Majd out of the house he was hiding in. It was two weeks before his family heard any news of him.

The authorities handed over his body in a nylon sack. It was clear he had been tortured before his death. His face was severely disfigured and his chest and thighs had been cut, and there were what seemed to be gunshot wounds on the back of his legs.

Majd al-Kurdy was tortured and killed by the authorities in May © Private

Given the weight of evidence that suggests that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s government has committed crimes against humanity and is continuing to do so as it continues to deploy tanks against cities at the forefront of the protests, the UN Security Council’s continuing inability to react adequately to the carnage is deeply frustrating and dispiriting.

Already, over 1,500 people have died during the months-long onslaught mounted by President al-Assad’s security forces against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters, yet the UN Security Council’s only reaction to date has been to adopt a non-binding “presidential statement”.

While the statement condemns the widespread violations being committed by the Syrian regime it falls far short of what is really needed, and merely urges the Syrian president to make good on his stated commitment to reform.

The Council’s impotence in relation to Syria stands in stark contrast with the quick and decisive action it took in the case of Libya. But, in fact, it is the aftermath of its resolution on Libya that has paralyzed the Council.

Permanent Council members Russia and China, joined by temporary members South Africa, Brazil and India, say Western members have gone beyond the mandate in resolution 1973 on Libya by supporting the opposition and seeking “regime change” in Tripoli.

They suspect the proponents of a rather weak draft resolution on Syria – mainly the United Kingdom and France – of wanting to do the same with Damascus and have pledged to thwart them, which has effectively granted the Syrian regime a pass to continue the repression.

But why should the Syrian people pay the price – in lives, displacement, torture and other ill- treatment – of this political dispute among Council members?

It is perfectly legitimate to question what lies behind any measures on Syria proposed by France, the UK, the USA or others. But that something must be done – and done now – to stop the carnage in Syria is also beyond doubt.

If they suspect Western countries of ulterior motives, it is the responsibility of countries like South Africa, Brazil and India – states aspiring to global leadership – to engage with other Council members to try to ensure that any resolution adopted serves only to protect civilians.

To date, however, the three temporary members – let alone China and Russia, who have their own reasons for restraining Security Council action on Syria – have not proposed any credible alternative and refuse even to discuss the text of the draft resolution.

The focus on South Africa, Brazil and India is not accidental. The three are part of the increasingly influential BRICS grouping, together with China and Russia. Unlike the last two, however South Africa, Brazil and India are vibrant democracies. They also have recent histories marked by popular struggles for human rights and freedoms, which many in positions of leadership in all three countries remember or were even a part of.

The three are uniquely positioned to steer an independent path in the Security Council.  They are strong enough to resist political and economic pressures from the traditional power players and have regional, and even global, ambitions of their own.

As free and open societies that cannot be accused of harbouring neo-colonialist intentions, they arguably also enjoy more credibility and legitimacy when championing the human rights of people wherever they are trampled.

Were they to support a Council resolution on Syria that makes clear to al-Assad and those around him that they will not escape justice for their crimes, it would be very difficult politically for China and Russia to use their veto.

So far, however, South Africa, Brazil and India have failed to exercise the leadership many expected of them.

As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, to the point where such key players as the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council and now the Saudi Arabian government have spoken out against the killings there, the question remains whether the three will continue to lockstep behind China and Russia.

They should not. Now is the time for South Africa, Brazil and India, together or individually, to stand up and be counted. They should show the world that they can and will act as strong and independent voices in the Council, defending internationally rights their own citizens should enjoy and which they consider universal. They should not fail the Syria test.

Read more:
UN urged to issue resolution on Syria bloodshed (News, 9 August 2011)
Demanding change in the Middle East and North Africa (Multimedia microsite)
Report reveals crimes against humanity in Syrian town (News, 6 July 2011)

Posted in Censorship and Free Speech, International Organizations, Middle East And North Africa, Syria, UN | 18 Comments

  1. Pedro Pizano says:

    Great post. I wholeheartedly agree. One question: Don’t you think that the other non-permanent members that you don’t mention in the post (understandably because they’re not part of the BRICS), could also take the lead? I’m referring specifically to Colombia and Germany. It’s time for the international community to engage as a whole and not depend only on the permanent members or the BRICS, and furthermore, as you so well put it: “But why should the Syrian people pay the price – in lives, displacement, torture and other ill- treatment – of this political dispute among Council members?”

  2. John Bazin says:

    Are calling for another “humanitarian” bombing camapaing like those killing Libyan civilians? Amnesty, you have just lost all credibility!

  3. guin phin says:

    If China and Russia fear that the resolution will be used to justify direct military action by Nato and U.S. Then, is there a way a resolution that condems the violence and addresses China’s and Russia’s concern about military action.

  4. Surinder Dhillon says:

    Crime against human rights has no place in todays world it need to be condemned and U N should take strict action .

  5. Hello IS bloggers! We recently started a blog for the Midwest regional office of AIUSA, and are looking to connect with other blogging sections worldwide. Could you give us a contact person for this blog, to add to the list we’re creating? We would also love to hear if you know of any other English-language blogs, anywhere and everywhere! Thanks!

  6. Casem Mazloum says:

    I am against the murdorous regime, and request to stop syrians’ regime

  7. Bornazzini Anna says:

    Sono veramente indignata per quello che sta succedendo in Siria: tutti i paesi democratici ed anche islamici a regime teocratico dovrebbero ritirare il personale dalle sedi consolari e dalle ambasciate dello stato siriano governato da una ciurma di criminali che vuole mantenere il potere a tutti i costi, facendo stragi di innocenti disarmati, donne, uomini, vecchi e bambini la cui unica colpa è quella di voler un paese più libero dalla corruzzione e più rappresentativo in una parola non chiedono altro che DEMOCRAZIA, che da noi ormai ha un significato quasi scontato e banale ma che in qusto terribile ed allo stesso tempo coraggiosissimo paese si è tinta del rosso sangue del suo popolo! Vergogna Bashar al-Assad, dimettiti e sparisci per sempre perchè non sei neanche degno di presentarti al tuo popolo, tiranno di bassa lega che ti fai scudo del tuo esercito, come i peggiori dittatori, minacciando di passare per le armi qualsiasi militare che si rifiuti di colpire la sua stessa gente disarmata e pacifica!!! Credi che il mondo non sappia, codardo, quello che sta succedendo nelle piazze siriane, pensi che il mondo civile possa tollerare un altro massacro come quello cinese del 1989? Ti sbagli, infame, i tempi sono maturi adesso per una comunicazione globale che nessuna repressione potrà fermare!!!

  8. Bornazzini Anna says:

    Va bene così, sono stata anche troppo tenera!!!

  9. Birgitta Al-Issa says:

    I would like to see a broad and united stand against Syria´s wanton violence towards protesters.

  10. Chuks Okoriekwe says:

    if the west can interfere by supplying the rebels in lybia resources to fight for freedon against the regime of Gadafi, they should do same in Syria.

  11. Kartic Halder says:

    I support Mr.Salil Shetty’s demand to the world leader to act to end repression in Syria now. The whole responsibility will go to the world leader if they fails to act immediately agaisnt Syria because Syria is continuously committing crimes against humanity.This is the time to stop the genocide,war crimes and crimes against humanity.

  12. Isabel Cunha Lopes says:

    Assassinos e genocidas

  13. Isabel Cunha Lopes says:

    Reveals crimes against humanity in Syrian town

  14. isay says:

    Nations heading the security council of the UN have a tendency of using their veto powers only when it has some benefit to them.
    These occurances are unlikely to faze them.

  15. Ali alsahlany says:

    I agree with what was mentioned above. In order to allow the Security Council to intervene in Syria. But we must deal with the matter impartially

  16. Dorothy Radjenovich says:

    It is scandalous the UN reaction to Syrian violence against their own. What does it take for the human race to put an end to the degrading devastation against their fellow man.

  17. Des Wilson says:

    There is no justification for Un prevarication on the Syrian issue.If funds are the matter, let them do a worldwide appeal. Des

  18. dibyendu ghosal says:

    please act

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