By: Byron Hoskinson – Staff Writer
This Saturday, March 15, on the heels of a United Nations special report faulting the U.N. Security Council for failing to adequately deal with the crisis, the Syrian Civil War will enter its fourth year of continuous bloodshed.
To date, more than 100 thousand Syrians, including at least 10 thousand children, have been killed and more than 9 million are displaced, besieged, or need aid, according to the U.N.
On Wednesday, March 5, an investigative U.N. human rights commission released a report cataloguing Syrian war crimes and atrocities and formally decried the UNSC for failing to refer the offenses to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
“The Security Council bears responsibility for not addressing accountability and allowing the warring parties to violate these rules with total impunity,” said U.N. commission of inquiry leader Paulo Pinheiro.
Pinheiro made his remarks after the Feb. 22 unanimous ratification of UNSC Resolution 2139, which instructed all embattled factions to allow “unhindered humanitarian access” to civilian populations.
Specifically, the legislation ordered the Syrian government, currently under Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime, and the opposition forces, now a tense coalition of Islamic and democratic groups, to stop obstructing civilian relief efforts and called on both groups to end siege and bombing activity.
The resolution asked the U.N. Secretary-General to submit a progress report every 30 days and threatened to “take further steps in the case of non-compliance” but does not specify sanctions or penalties.
The measure was met with mixed international reception, with high-ranking diplomats, were divided over whether the bill’s passage constituted concrete progress or empty symbolism.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry affirmed the resolution as a potential turning point in the conflict.
“After three years of slaughter and savagery,” Kerry said in a statement immediately after the voting, “people rightfully will question whether progress is possible. But this resolution holds the promise of something real.”
Jeff Aubin, a senior political science and international studies major, said the resolution is well-intended, but will be challenging to implement.
“Calling for humanitarian intervention is obviously a good move,” Aubin said. “But it will be difficult to negotiate effective relief efforts between so many different groups with competing interests.”
The successful passage marks the fourth attempt since Oct. 2011 to implement relief efforts in Syria. The first three resolutions were vetoed by permanent UNSC members China and Russia due to the inclusion of sanctions, both of which support Assad’s administration.
Joel Pruce, a UD professor of human rights in the political science department, described the conflict as an sequence of human rights violations.
“The civil war began as part of the Arab Spring, which was a series of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world,” Pruce said. “In Syria, it started with a peaceful movement advocating for a regime change in their own government, in favor of a democratically-elected leader.”
Pruce said the Assad regime ultimately responded to the protestors with force.
“And once met with violence, the nonviolent protests eventually transitioned into violent movements, bringing about the full-scale war,” he said.
The resolution is only the U.N.’s second legally-binding measure directed towards the Syrian Civil War, the first being the UNSC mandate to Assad to eliminate his chemical weapons stockpile by July 2014, according to UNSC archives.
The U.N. Secretary-General’s first status report is expected to be released March 24.