Syrian Crisis The Gross Violation of Human Rights and the Role of United Nations
By Md. Nazmul Islam Raihan
The conflict in Syria didn’t occur all of a sudden. The engagement of multinational fighters did not occur simultaneously but with a process of dynamic development of internal conflict. The Civil war of Syria marked by mass killing and Genocide against civilian population by government and opposition forces including the use of Chemical weapons which brought dire consequences on humanity and human rights. But the supreme institution and organization of the world countries could do nothing except periodic statement from Washington. The United Nations established with the commitment in its preamble of the Charter to protect human being from the scourge of war but it failed to protect its first commitment. Secondly it shows respect to human rights and human dignity of all persons and committed to act in this respect. United Nations vigorously failed to protect its first commitment due to changing pattern of inter-state war to intra-state civil war or internal conflict and for block politics. But it can work for it’s another objectives of protection of human rights and human dignity at all respect because the human rights law is applicable in all places disregarding the international and internal issue of violation of this.
The Syrian conflict, also known as the Syrian civil war or Syrian crisis, is an ongoing armed conflict in Syria between forces loyal to the Ba’ath government and those seeking to oust it. This conflict began on 15 March 2011, with popular demonstrations that developed nationwide in April 2011. The demonstrations were a part of so called Arab Spring. The crisis in Syria was prompted by protests in mid-March 2011 calling for the release of political prisoners. Later it was demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971, as well as the end of Ba’ath Party rule, which began in 1963. National security forces answered the peaceful demonstration with brutal violence and President Bashar al Assad refused to halt the attacks and implement the meaningful reforms demanded by the protestors. As a result Syria was twisted into a civil war. Gradually the conflict occupied with international politics, where the international actors played important role in the domestic politics of Syria. To support the Syrian army Hezbollah entered into the civil war in 2013. And Iran and Russia giving military support to Syria government. On the other hand rebel groups obtained support from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, later from US. President Assad consistently denied responsibility for these conflicts, placing blame for the violence on armed groups and terrorists, and denying humanitarian access to civilians.
According to the United Nations, the death toll surpassed 100,000 in June 2013, and reached 120,000 by September 2013. In 2014 are more than the UN estimates of 2013. And ten thousands of protesters have been imprisoned and there are reports of widespread torture and terror in state prisons. . More than 4 million Syrians have been displaced, more than 2 million Syrians fled the country and became refugees, and millions more were left in poor living conditions with shortage of food and drinking water. And the latest addition of Syrian conflict is the use of chemical weapons on the civilian people. United Nations and other national and international organizations are working for the Syrian conflict, such as League of Arab States, EU, Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab League. Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan was appointed as Joint Special Envoy for the UN and the League of Arab States on 23 February 2012.
Secretary General Ban Ki Moon arranged a peace conference for the peaceful resolution of Syrian crisis but it did not bring any result to halt fighting. But another effort of United States of disarming Chemical Weapons of Asad regimes has successfully completed. Now, Syria is a battlefield of at least sixth nation’s fighters including United Kingdom, France, Iran, Lebanon and Syria. It may be more than the actual assumption.
According to Amnesty International the most terrible violence was occurred by the government force in Syria for violations of human rights. And the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said that both sides appear to have committed war crimes. Syrian armed and security forces and militias and the rebel groups are committing the mass killing in Syria against the humanitarian law. According to the Commissioner report, Syrian armed and security forces have been responsible for: civilians’ unlawful killing, for torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary arrest. According Human Rights Watch said opposition fighters killing civilians, committed “serious abuses” that may amount to crimes against humanity. Witnesses and survivors described how opposition fighters “executed residents and opened fire on civilians, sometimes killing or attempting to kill entire families. From March ’11 to September ’13 more than 100000 people were killed in Syria. The UN reported 10,000 persons arbitrarily detained between mid-March and the late June 2011, a year later that number had more than doubled, though the true number of detainees may have been far higher. Collective punishment, enforced disappearances, wide scale and systematic destruction and looting of property are very common scenario in Syria. Human Rights Watch documented more than 20 different methods of torture used against detainees, including: prolonged and severe beatings, often with objects such as batons and wires; painful stress positions; electrocution; burning with car battery acid, pulling out fingernails, and mock execution. Many were held in disgusting and cruelly overcrowded conditions, many who needed medical assistance were denied it, and some consequently died. And the armed group used massive grave for burring the people.
Both government group and rebel group used tanks and helicopter gunships in densely populated areas and heavy and indiscriminate shelling in civilian areas. Accusations by both the Syrian rebels and the Assad regime of chemical weapons use ramped up in March, but it wasn’t until June that the U.S. said it had confirmed that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons. But most lethal chemical weapons have been now banned by most members of the international community. This chemical weapon killed near about 1429 civilian in Syria.
The Syrian people need the humanitarian assistance immediately. But Assad government denied the humanitarian assistance of the opposite group. And while Syria has permitted aid to be taken to opposition-held areas from Damascus; it continues to refuse permission for any cross-border assistance. In February and March this year almost 300,000 Syrians were effectively cut off from aid as the government shut down all cross-line operations by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
6.8 million People in need inside Syria.
Source: UN reports and Updated by the Author according to the data of UN
In December, 2013 the UN estimated that over 2 million people in Syria were internally displaced as a result of the conflict, requiring humanitarian assistance. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said almost 600,000 Syrians had been registered or were awaiting registration as refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and North Africa, although the total number of those who had fled Syria was believed to be higher. Neighboring countries allowed thousands of refugees from Syria access to safety and assistance on their territories; however, in mid-August, Turkey and Iraq curtailed entry, in violation of international law. By the end of the year, thousands of people were living in camps beside the border with Turkey in dire conditions. In Jordan, the World Bank reported in May that the influx of refugees is affecting the livelihood, public services, and basic commodities of the local communities, and announced its financial support to the government. This economic impact created resentment against the refugees within the country.
The Special Advisers of the Secretary-General of UN on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect voiced their concern over the Syrian government’s systematic widespread attacks targeting civilians and reminded the government of its responsibility to protect its population in a series of public statements. Notably, in their fifth statement, released on 14 June 2012, they called on the international community “to take immediate, decisive action to meet its responsibility to protect populations at risk of further atrocity crimes in Syria, taking into consideration the full range of tools available under the United Nations Charter” including a referral of the situation by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court (ICC). On 8 July 2013, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention on Genocide, Mr. Dieng, warned against the increasing use of rhetoric by political and religious leaders in the Middle East and North Africa region as it could be used to incite further violence in Syria.
According to the UNHCR as of September 2012, estimates of the number of Syrians who had fled their homes for safer areas of the country ranged from 1.5 to 2.5 million. UNHCR has developed a multi-sector emergency program, within the framework of the UN Syria Humanitarian Response Plan and in collaboration with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). Security constraints have forced UNHCR to adjust and curtail some activities. For instance, it has closed its facilities in Douma, north of Damascus. UNHCR has also reduced the number of its international staff in the country. Regular reviews of operating procedures aim to reduce the risks to staff and beneficiaries. Despite the challenging situation, the Syrian authorities have continued to host and accommodate refugees. For its part, UNHCR, in partnership with the SARC, has maintained essential services and protection to persons of concern.
The Security Council received criticism for failing to address the crisis for over five months after protests had begun, and its subsequent inability to reach a consensus on how to move forward. The Council began with a cautious approach, not wanting to violate the UN charter and aid a civil war; however, as the situation progressed, several attempts at resolutions to bring an end to the conflict, were vetoed by Russia and China.. With the appointment of a special envoy and establishment of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), the Council attempted to take preventive action. Unfortunately, the situation had escalated already to a point of extreme violence with very limited room for political negotiations between the disputing parties. As such, UNSMIS immediately faced many technical difficulties on and off the ground, including limited freedom of movement by the government, blocked access to sites of mass violence, and the rejection of observers’ visas. These, alongside ongoing violence, led to the Misson’s suspension on 15 June 2012. In October 2012 the Security Council issued press statements condemning the terrorist attacks in Aleppo and later calling on all relevant parties to implement a ceasefire in honor of Eid al- Adha, Since then, the Council has received significant pressure to refer the case in Syria to the ICC, including from the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and from over 50 Member States who signed a letter saying as much in mid-January 2013. But still today it could not play any effective role to save the civilian population from the hand of war.
The General Assembly adopted several resolutions calling for all parties to support efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis. In an attempt to pressure the Security Council to act, the General Assembly requested that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon brief the Council in January 2013. At this time, the Secretary-General stated: “We must do everything we can to reach Syrians in need. We must intensify our efforts to end the violence through diplomacy, overcoming the divisions within Syria, the region and the Security Council.” On May 15 2013, the General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the conflict’s escalation, violations of humanitarian law, and violence, demanding the government meets their responsibility to protect their population, comply with international law, and cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry to investigate claims of chemical weapons. The resolution also asked the Secretary-General to report on the resolution’s implementation to the GA within 30 days.
In essence, it is clear that the Syrian crisis can be categorized by the serious violation of human rights, indiscriminate torture of civilian people, and gross violation of International Humanitarian Law and law of war. The war crimes have been committed by the government and rebel fighters. Millions of refugees are suffering from the war and escaped from their motherland and passing critical and dangerous time in neighboring country, where violence against refugee’s women and children also has got momentum. But the United Nations could not play effective role to resolve the crisis in peaceful way without giving statement. So, the role of United Nations in terms of protection of civilian people, refugees and resolving disputes have played a barren role which is unexpected from world community. Everyone hope that the United Nations should have played more effective role to resolve the crisis. In addition, as United Nations failed to resolve the dispute in peaceful way by saving the Syrian current generation from the scourge of war as well as it has equally failed to keep its commitment of protecting the human dignity and human rights of civilian population including women and children. n