Syria: Military intervention – six key points

UN chemical weapons experts visit one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Zamalka, outside Damascus. © REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

By Kristyan Benedict, Crisis Response Campaign Manager at Amnesty International UK

In recent days, several governments, including the UK, USA and France have signalled their intention to take military action against the Syrian government, which they hold responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attacks of 21 August. The horrific scenes in the dozens of videos I have watched from those incidents are some of the most haunting I have witnessed during this long and brutal conflict.

So now the spectre of an international armed conflict looms between the Syrian government and foreign military forces.The protection of civilians is a key priority for Amnesty International and that is why we call on all parties who could be involved to comply with international humanitarian law. In particular, those concerned absolutely must:

  • Refrain from targeting civilians or civilian objects;
  • Refrain from carrying out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks;
  • Refrain from using weapons which are inherently indiscriminate or otherwise prohibited under international humanitarian law, including cluster munitions;
  • Take all necessary precautions in attacks to spare civilians, including by issuing warnings to civilians wherever feasible, and paying particular heed to the fact that detainees are being held in military bases and facilities;
  • Take precautions to protect civilians under their control against the effect of attacks, including avoiding, to the extent feasible, locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas, and removing, where feasible, civilians from the vicinity of military objectives;
  • Refrain from using civilians to render military objectives immune from attack (that is, as human shields).

Meanwhile, the joint UN and Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has been trying to convene an international conference based on the Geneva Communiqué to resolve the crisis. However, deadlock at the UN Security Council has so far prevented attempts to resolve this brutal and bloody conflict. The Syrian government has felt free to carry on committing the most sickening violations of human rights, such as launching ballistic missiles at civilian areas, seemingly confident that they will be protected by allies such as Russia and China, two countries which appear to be mistaking callousness for high principles. Unless that dynamic changes and effective pressure is applied on all parties, it is extremely difficult to see how negotiations alone will resolve this crisis.

Targeted sanctions, namely a freeze on the assets of President Assad and others who may be involved in ordering or perpetrating crimes under international law, a referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court and the deployment of an effective international human rights monitoring mission would, however, go some way to contributing to conditions for meaningful negotiations aimed at a solution that respects the human rights of all Syrians.

The international community also needs to take urgent steps to ease the crippling humanitarian situation inside the country, where more than 4.25 million people are believed to be displaced. In particular, it should ensure that all parties to the armed conflict in Syria allow unfettered access to humanitarian organizations and agencies to provide assistance to a civilian population desperate for relief. As for the Syrian government, they really need to allow cross-border access, as well as cross-line access, and they need to do that quickly.

As my colleague Cilina Nasser recently said, “We are beyond hand-wringing on Syria. Civilians continue to be targeted or killed indiscriminately. The time for action is now.” That action must include actively prioritizing the human rights of all Syrians.

Read more:
Syria: Possible international armed intervention after alleged chemical weapons attack (Q&A, 29 August 2013)
Enough hand-wringing on Syria (Op-ed, 22 August 2013)
Syria: UN team must get full access to investigate ‘chemical weapons’ claim (News story, 21 August 2013)

Posted in Armed Conflict, Armed Groups, Syria, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

  1. Tanya A. Bulock says:

    The use of chemicals against any human being seems a travesty. My heartfelt feeling on this issue is that how could such weapons be made. Revolutionaries are revolting because there personal situation is not meeting a human standard of living. Innocent civilians are in the middle of the two sides, and our own international diplomacy is divided on whose side to take and my personal thoughts is that anyone who purposely uses chemical weapons against groups of people should not be a leader of their country. As a member of Amnesty International I agree with the conditions that humanity should refrain from targeting civilians or civilian objects;Refrain from carrying out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks;Refrain from using weapons which are inherently indiscriminate or otherwise prohibited under international humanitarian law, including cluster munitions;Take all necessary precautions in attacks to spare civilians, including by issuing warnings to civilians wherever feasible, and paying particular heed to the fact that detainees are being held in military bases and facilities;Take precautions to protect civilians under their control against the effect of attacks, including avoiding, to the extent feasible, locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas, and removing, where feasible, civilians from the vicinity of military objectives;Refrain from using civilians to render military objectives immune from attack (that is, as human shields).

  2. Dean Ricer says:

    Under no circumstances should the United States take any sort of military action against Syria. The United Nations and the World Court were formed to manage these problems. We must stop being the school-yard bully

  3. Tariq Khan says:

    Incredible!! So the most respected human rights organisation in the world is now telling the US how best to attack Syria.

  4. Anthony Tuemler says:

    In regards to Tariq Khan’s comment about a human rights organization telling the U.S. how best to deal with Syria, may I remind him of our “marvelous” interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone? If the institutions to settle this matter are in place, why not use them? It’s better than blundering into another quagmire.

  5. Right to the point Tariq
    . How come the “most respected human rights” organisation has turned into another warmonger for the USA?

    Have they missed the videos of beheading Christian priests and children and the execution of women? Have they missed the facts that the chemicals were fired my the so called “freedom fighters”? Are they ignoring the facts that these so called liberators are nothing but fanatic islamist and mercenaries arriving from all the dark corners of the world? How can Evil be stopped if it carries on being supported by those who are supposed to help us alleviate it?

  6. omar alashqar says:

    I’ll write my opinion shortly ,,

    The armed forces of foreign countries should attack the military airports and military movements of syrian army away from civilians which is not accepted. also it’s not accepted to attack the free syrian army’s locations because it fights for the freedom and justice presence in syria.

  7. Peggy Brayfield says:

    I receive frequent e-mails from Amnesty asking me to take action by sending a message to various national or world leaders regarding the violation of human rights in specific instances. Also, every December, I take part in writing letters to officials in various countries urging them to take some action regarding such cases.

    So far, I have received no call to action from Amnesty on the gassing of the Syrian people.

    I am asking Amnesty to send out a call to all its supporters, with information about how to contact various political and religious leaders around the world and especially, those not considered Western allies. Call on these leaders to publicly take a stand denouncing the gas attacks and other atrocities against civilian populations. Especially call on Islamic religious leaders who believe that Islam is a religion of peace and reconciliation, to use their influence in any way they can to persuade the Assad regime to cease attacking the people and negotiate a peace. This issue should not be about the US and its allies. It should be about the whole world’s horror at the gassing of civilian populations anywhere.

    ‘The significant problems we face today cannot be solved on the same level of thinking that created them’ (Einstein). Amnesty could also send out a call to action aimed at calling attention of American leaders to alternative ways to respond to these gas attacks and other atrocities.

    Call on President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry to use diplomatic channels, even to go directly to the new President of Iran, and urge leaders of the Mid-East to denounce the gassing of the Syrian people. I know this is a rather far-fetched idea. but the Iranian people were gassed in the not-too-distant past, and Iran’s leaders have reason to speak out and bring pressure to bear on Assad. Iran should be included. Perhaps our President and Sec of State could find a way, whether it’s ‘get on the phone’ or working behind the scenes if that’s the best approach.

    How can we send messages to Iranian and other non-US affiliated leaders, calling on them to oppose gassing? Let’s get that information out on the internet, and inundate them with messages! Amnesty knows how. Tell us!

    • Suleiman says:

      While everyone should support international action against the Assad regime for all the atrocities committed against the Syrian people, there seems to be a problem with the current call military intervention. For one, it is coming from world powers who have time and again proven to be using the sufferings of populations under tyrannical regimes to advance their own hegemonic agendas. Otherwise, how would one understand the rush towards military action when the world is still waiting the report of the UN fact finding mission sent to Syria to find out what the truth is with regard to the use of chemical weapons against Syrians. If they have the proves, why can’t they share what they know with the UNSC and seek a resolution from the only legitimate body that exists. Unless we are witnessing Iraq 2 and the then alleged weapons of mass destruction which were found to be a fabrication.
      As for amnesty telling the US and its allies where and how to strike, I find it incredible to say the least. One would expect it to call on all parties to refrain from taking unilateral action and wait for the UN experts report. The call to refrain from targeting civilians would be only meaningful if such an action has first been approved by the UNSC.
      In any case, military action has never solved a problem. Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan should have been a lesson. Only concerted international effort to find a political solution would bring results.

  8. Dragana vuletic says:

    Your reports on Syria lack the neutrality, strength and information. Calls for countries to ensure delivery of humanitarian aid and to accept more refugees are just dealing with effects of the civil war… Please take a stand, call the super-powers to stop financing and arming warring sides and to restart the peace resolution process. Amnesty, please don’t be just another Nobel peace prize failure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>