From March on Road of Freedom to Endless Suffering. The never ending, unabated series of violent attacks erupted on Syrian Land from peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations against the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in March 2011 almost 10 years ago has now turned into a full-scale civil war. Widespread unemployment, chronic poverty, autocratic rule and Arab awakening led Syrian people to demand resignation of the present president, but conversely to masses demands the government used deadly force to crack down this massive descents and country wide protests. Until now; 380,000 causalities can be attributed to this conflict, alongside demolished and destroyed cities and spillover effects on neighboring countries (BBC, 2021).
Subsequently, the violence in Syria escalated rapidly among different groups. Power vacuum paved way for various regional and global powers to wage proxies, aggravate existing conflict and oust adversaries’ influence over Syrian land. Pro and anti-government groups sprung up and foreign powers involved in the conflict started sending money, weapons, and technical support to worsen the existing situation. Jihadist organizations for their own vested interests such as Islamic State IS and Al-Qaeda are also actively involved. Syrian Kurds who are fighting for their independence has also given different dimension to the conflict (BBC, 2021).
Iran is involved in training Shia Muslim militiamen and providing them financial and armed assistance via Lebanon’s Hezbollah group. Yemen military and rebel groups are also fighting alongside Syrian army. Whereas, USA and Russia are responsible for various Air strikes killing millions of innocent civilians. This foreign involvement in conflict has made the situation even more complicated.
Syria: Who controls what?
Failure of the United Nations. Paradoxically, United Nations being the watch dog of human rights and global peace has failed to effectively and sympathetically respond to Syrian conflict. The Unprecedented devastation that caused millions of people to flee their home ground and Syrian conflict that is one of the worst humanitarian crises of 21st century clearly depicts UN failure to restrain violence and restore peace. Moreover, more than 5 million external and 6 million internal displacement and 13 million in dire need of assistance (UN, 2020) with almost 12 million people being vulnerable and prone to abject poverty and half a million children being miserably undernourished (SAR, 2021). The conflict paints unsaid miseries of Syrian people, particularly children and women.
Similarly according to SOHR (2020) report which explained that 2.1 million Syrians have been injured and faced permanent disabilities because of chemical bombardment, shows how global actors have been unconcerned towards this unabated violence. Crippling economy and social downturn compounded with mass displacement demanded urgent help to avert another tragedy. However, to make the matter worse, biased and selected Interpretation of article 39 under which UNSC decides any act of aggression a threat to peace and ineffective implementation of article 40-41 where UNSC adopt either military or non-military measures to restore peace, of UN charter has failed to address the existing situation.
As Nadin (2017) explained that unless the UNSC is not unified its decisions in general and UNSC in particular can never be effective and Syrian conflict will remain unresolved. UNSC could have fulfilled its obligations to avert the violence considering Article 2(7), which clearly states non-interference in domestic affairs of member states. But sadly the involvement of global powers has halted the peaceful solution to the conflict.
United Nations failure towards Syrian conflict can also be gauged by its hypocritical and selective responses towards various global conflicts. Contrary to speedy formation of international courts for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, it had not even opened the case of Syria. The case was held in abeyance as the council was yet to decide/ initiate either to refer it to war crime tribunal or to International criminal court (ICC). Furthermore, the vetoes of permanent 5 members of UNSC have been prolonging this conflict to date.
Series of Vetoes: UNSC vetoes and excuses get in the way of justice.
- 2011-12: Sanctions against Assad’s regime
- 2012: Troops movement and use of heavy weaponry
- 2014: Referral of Syrian conflict to ICC
- 2016: Condemning regime and cease fire for humanitarian assistance.
- 2017: Against chemical weapon proliferation
All these resolutions have been blocked by either Russia or China. Subsequently, hampered the meaningful initiatives. It was the responsibility of the council to protect Syrian from the autocratic and barbaric system that kill Syrian citizens, blatantly violate human rights and forcefully detain and abduct them, but Security Council has utterly failed (UN, 2019). Moreover, while UN has been unable to verify missing persons’ data, various reports exposed the statistics with more than 100,000 citizens been illegally abducted, detained and disappeared by either Syrian government or armed oppositions groups.
In addition to this, among many other UN officials Carla Del Ponte, a well-known member of UN commission of inquiry on Syrian conflict has also resigned from her designated post and explicitly claimed UNSC a direct culprit of Syrian crises (Nadin, 2017). According to her UNSC has been failed to do something for justice and being the member of UN commission nothing meaningful had been achieved as the were going nowhere.
Henceforth, against these arbitrary abuses and explicit violation of international humanitarian law, justice must be ensured. All in all, it can be said that under article 1 of UN charter United Nation has been failed to establish international peace and in settlement of international disputes in case of breach of peace if Syrian conflict is to be evaluated.
UN Efforts. Considering mounting violence and massive uprising against Assad’s regime international community raised concerns over Syrian conflict UN despite multiple failures though initiated certain measures to assuage the crises and to put a halt to existing atrocities but question remains whether these initiatives were enough or not.
The United Nations body, human right council on August 2011 established commission of inquiry to evaluate and monitor human right violations. The body alongside general assembly sent out various condemning resolutions for breach of human rights law and call upon Syrian government to abstain from brutal attacks on its citizens (Barrow, 2017).
Similarly, the UNSC has also passed Resolution 2118 in 2013, which called upon Syria to surrender its chemical weapons. In 2014 the council passed resolution 2139 and 2165 to access and ensure humanitarian assistance in Syria (Mahmood & Javed, 2017). Moreover, the council adopted resolution 2042 calling upon ceasefire in 2012 and also hired about 30 observers to monitor the implementation of resolution. UNSC has also adopted resolution 2043, under which UN peace keeping supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) was formed (Barrow, 2017).
Alongside these efforts UN Arab league especial envoy Kofi Anan, spearheaded 6 points plan to resolve the conflict. It includes placement of observer mission in Syria for shorter time period, access to humanitarian assistance and idea for OPCW-UN combined mission in Syria. All these points could bring meaning full results, but council just sidelined it and merely adopted selective resolutions (Nadin, 2017). The UNSC resolution 2254 in year 2015 paved a roadmap to ensure peace in Syria, drafting a schedule for peace talks between government and opposition groups. In 2016 under resolution 2332 UNSC has also issued approval for interstate aid supply in Syria till 10 of January 2018.
The UN advisers on prevention of genocide has constantly raised their concerns regarding massive violation of human rights in Syria by all national, regional and global actors. They have explicitly criticized widespread aerial attacks on innocent citizens and use of chemical weapons (Mahmood & Javed, 2017). But despite all these condemning statements and Plethora of resolutions adopted by UNSC the perpetuated violence in Syria remains unabated and the conflict is gaining momentum with each passing day.
Way forward. The perpetuator of violence should be held accountable for the infringement of humanitarian law. All groups that are involved in the conflicts should go for unanimous and peaceful solution if they are to achieve lasting peace in Syria. Decisive actions beyond condemnation level should be taken to end the suffering. Under such conditions suggestions put forward by Barrow (2017) should also be considered. These includes:
- Arms embargo should be imposed on Syria
- Strict Sanctions should be implemented against those who breach human rights.
- The case of Syria should be forwarded to international criminal court ICC.
To conclude the entire debate, Syrian have been suffering from aerial attacks, enduring chemical weapons, are starving to death, currency is devaluing at unprecedented rate, access to humanitarian aid is being shamefully restricted by the government and all parties are ignominiously using Syrian land for their vested interest without paying any heed toward innocent lives. What is more appalling and pugnacious in this scenario is the hypocritical role of United Nation as mere condemning statements/ speeches, peacekeeping observers and humanitarian assistance could not and never resolve this intricate conflict. If foreign forces have not been involved in the conflict the situation in Syrian could not have been that much complicated. Hence, until or unless the big powers and Syrian government do not create conducive environment for peace talks between warring parties, then unfortunately, Syria would continue to hold an uncertain future.