The Security Council’s Syria shame
August 2nd, 2012
05:39 PM ET

The Security Council’s Syria shame

By José Luis Díaz, Special to CNN

Editor's note: José Luis Díaz is Amnesty International’s representative at the United Nations. The views expressed are his own.

If there were still any doubts about just how massive the U.N. Security Council’s failure on Syria has been, today’s news out of Geneva surely put paid to them. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan surprised most observers this morning with his resignation as joint U.N.-Arab League envoy on Syria. The surprise is likely as much about the timing as anything else. No one at the United Nations would say it publicly, but all the players knew the “six-point plan” Annan crafted, and which the Security Council later endorsed, was moribund, if not dead. Annan’s resignation will also make it that much more difficult to renew the U.N. observation mission in Syria, an operation some Council members want shut down in two weeks’ time as there’s no ceasefire to observe. So the question really wasn’t whether Annan would throw in the towel, but when.

Annan had been seen as the one figure that could bring Security Council members together to address the crisis in Syria after months of agonizing paralysis. Russia and China had blocked meaningful action on Syria for nearly a year before the Council was able to adopt even watered down measures on Syria. But the United States, Britain and France also stand accused of not sufficiently pressing the opposition to negotiate a political solution. As Annan said today, when the Syrian people desperately need action, there continues to be finger pointing and name calling in the Security Council. In the meantime, the killing and crimes under international law have continued, and go on to this day.

To be fair, Annan was given an impossible job. He was sent in to make up for the failure of political will within the international community, and in particular of the Security Council. In 2011, that body took relatively quick action, ostensibly to protect civilians in Ivory Coast and, most spectacularly, in Libya. There was some talk at the time of those interventions that the Security Council was finally putting people before politics.

Such a suggestion was optimistic even then, but after 17 months of executions, torture, repression and all manner of human rights violations in Syria, it seems almost criminally naïve now. For one thing, the ongoing crisis in Syria proves that Security Council members, and particularly the permanent ones, are still guided primarily by political and strategic considerations, despite the lofty talk out of some capitals. This isn’t necessarily sinister, but it need not, by the same token, relegate concern and action to protect civilians and their human rights to a secondary plane.

The Security Council’s failure has been collective, yet this doesn’t mean that all members share responsibility equally. Russia and China, in particular, have doggedly shielded the Bashar al-Assad government from the beginning of the crisis. They parroted the regime’s line from very early on that the opposition – overwhelmingly peaceful at the beginning – was no more than a terrorist conspiracy guided from abroad.

The increasing repression from the government has been met with armed resistance, and some elements fighting the security forces are now reported to be committing war crimes, as the recent alleged unlawful killings of more than a dozen members of the al-Berri clan demonstrate.

Sadly, there will be no shortage of violations and crimes to account for in Syria – and this is one area on which the members of the Security Council could come to some agreement. Amnesty International has been calling on the Council to bring the situation in Syria before the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who would be able to look at allegations of crimes committed by all sides. This would be at least some tangible evidence that political calculation won’t always be allowed to trump human rights, even when they are those of people very far away from most of us.

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Topics: Middle East • Syria • United Nations

soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. fantasticiquattro

    There is no point to the ICC because there is no international police force that is capable of bringing violators of law to justice. Conflicts like Syria prove how ineffectual the ICC, international aw, and groups like Amnesty International are. Brute force only understands brute force.

    August 2, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Reply
    • HonestyCounts

      I watched Obama and Hillary Clinton on world TV praising and encouraging the Arab Spring as a "New beginning for democracy in the Arab world. Obama carried on , hysterically cheeringr them when Tunisia, the first to go, succeeded in gaining "Freedom from tyranny" Then Yemen, Egypt, Libya and now Syria.
      Right at the outset Ms Clinton was squawking "Assad must go!"

      Sorry but I said at the time – what maniacs would encourage 10 countries to rebel simultaneously! And who the hell gave Obama and Clinton the RIGHT to unseat 10 other leaders by providing arms and drones and killing thousands of innocents?

      Obama doesn't even realised that if we had the same mindset as the Arab world , he mightn't feel quite so self-important.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Reply
      • Nina

        The very stoic President Obama is never histerical about anything.

        August 4, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  2. Ferhat Balkan

    I can understand the UN and it's mission to resolve conflicts diplomatically before any military action is taken as a worthy cause, but most of these situations often fail. Response to crisis is often too slow due to debates in the forum taking too long or not achieving enough votes etc. One of the biggest flaws that I see with it's system is the veto power of China, France, Russia, UK and the US. These countries have the power to veto any majority vote which more often than not end up causing inaction.

    August 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Reply
    • deniz boro

      I hate to see good intended people with good names and background being played with and spent like pions on a chest table.This whole scene will leave no trust in any authorised neutral authority in charge or reliable up to the holy orders in any religion.If all the World's nations are to live together and interact, they should at least hold these neutral authorities HOLY before all else. And well before their pitiable worldly advance of anykind. No wander each interest group takes up its worldwide safety in its own hand with guns, because financial interest groups manage to corrupt all else in worldwide efforts.

      August 4, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  3. Lyndsie Graham

    I bet that they'll be partying bigtime in Washington over this tonight! These neocons are hoping to take over Syria and this will be their excuse!

    August 2, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Reply
    • rick

      ooooooooo "take over syria" .........oooooooooooo............... Coo Coo!!........oooooooooo

      August 3, 2012 at 11:10 am | Reply
      • Nina

        Well said Rick.
        I am in full agreement!

        August 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • HonestyCounts

      If you were old enough to vote, you'd know Obama has escalated what could have been a momentary problem in the M.E. by encouraging the Arab Spring. He was up there on World TV [so you thicko Liberals can't deny it!] congratulating the arab world's "New era of Democracy".
      THEN he provided arms and drones in Egypt and Libya which killed thousands and left those 10 Arab Spring countries in tatters.

      Who the hell are Obama and H.Clinton to decide who goes? And don't deny it – SHE was on the World News sites right at the start in Syria demanding "Assad MUST go." I notice that once it got out of hand Obama left a vapor trail to escape HIS responsibility. Foreign policy....Pfffft! All he did was throw a match ito a box of T-N-T!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Reply
  4. Both Sides Now

    I can see the authors acknowledgement that Syria should have been pressured to find a political solution, and this is commendable. A political solution, however, has to be negotiated between the two sides concerned, and whatever the outcome they have to live with it.

    What is tragic is that the West continually forgets that there is another valid, rational side to the argument, one that should be respected and not slammed as being 'uncoorporative'.

    Assad is facing an armed rebellion, now with tanks and arms that have been 'supplied', illegally of course, something that other countries are ashamed to own up to. Assad is putting down an armed rebellion ( why use tanks against unarmed civillians?) In any case, these are rebels who are capable of taking over whole towns.

    Once again the word 'hypocrisy' bubbles to the surface – supporting an armed rebellion in another sovereign state is against the UN charter. If the rebels want to risk their lives and fight – no one can stop them, but at least admit that sides have been taken in this geopolitical chess game and do not be ashamed to admit it, and don't try to cover it up.

    If the rebels stop fighting, and settle for some political solution : the war will end. If Asad stops fighting the war will end, but only a madman will give up his country in the face of an armed rebellion without a fight.

    August 3, 2012 at 5:12 am | Reply
    • Lest we forget

      "If the rebels stop fighting, and settle for some political solution : the war will end. If Asad stops fighting the war will end, but only a madman will give up his country in the face of an armed rebellion without a fight."

      I guess you forgot how this whole thing began? It wasn't an armed rebellion at the beginning, it was peaceful protests. Perhaps the following might help jog your memory:

      "Locals took to the streets to protest after 15 schoolchildren had been arrested – and reportedly tortured – for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall.

      The protests were peaceful to begin with, calling for the kids' release, democracy and greater freedom for people in the country.

      The government responded angrily and on 18 March, the army opened fire on protesters, killing four people.

      The following day, they shot at mourners at the victims' funerals, killing another person."

      August 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Reply
      • David

        Is it possible that the early killings were not the result of government forces but those of the "rebels". The source of the information was "activists" whoever they are?

        August 5, 2012 at 11:23 am |
      • Gregory

        The peaceful protests are a myth, the opposition were storming state offices and attacking police stations, and today they are murdering entire police garrisons in schools. To be opposed to the FSA is to die. The largest protests (which were indeed peaceful) were pro-regime. Aleppo is being put to the sword by insurgents who are Islamic militants from the hills. They are not from Aleppo. How many Christian churches survived the 'peaceful' protests? The answer is none. The faction with an absolutely lethal policy towards dissent is the Free Syrian Army, every school they borrow or occupy becomes a murder ground. They are abducting and killing Alawi, Christians, and Iranians. The UN has accused the opposition of crimes against humanity. Amnesty refused to support the UN high Commissioner for Human Rights. Amnesty actually have a preferred side in this war! They are a very unusual human rights NGO. They are not like the Red Cross.

        August 7, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • HonestyCounts

      Lest We Forget – Tunisia was peaceful at first till Obama and Clinton waded in with their "enthusiastic support. Don't dream of denying it – Obama's foreign policy escalated the problem and we all know it.

      Russian Communist leader Zuyganov said recently – "When USA unleashed the Arab Spring in Africa and the M.E., It let the genie of Islamic Fundamentalism out of the bottle." Then he went on to say:
      " Washington instils extremist ideology in countries that used to have secular regimes." He pointed out a statement published on the Communist Party's website:

      "By supporting radical Islamists, the USA aims to impose control over the entire region and points the edge of an extremist dagger at Russia."

      Looking back at Obama's speeches at the beginning of the Arab Spring – I'm not surprised the Russians think that. And it's not the best news. Maybe Obama meant well, but he hasn't the experience of Diplomacy – or the ability to think outside his own box. He has made an enemy I think.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Reply
      • Nina

        You are lying because you have no source.

        August 4, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  5. j. von hettlingen

    Annan's decision to step down is clear recognition that a diplomatic solution has failed, and that Syria's fate will be decided by events on the ground.

    August 3, 2012 at 7:25 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Annan is no doubt bitterly disppointed and sad to see the crocodile tears Russia shed.

      August 3, 2012 at 7:29 am | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        With Moscow doing nothing to help solve the conflict and Tehran standing by Assad "until good triumphed over evil", the UN will have a hard time to find a high-profile figure to replace Annan.

        August 3, 2012 at 7:39 am |
  6. JAL

    Fareed, now that the Arab Spring has been successful in Libya, you should focus more on increasing business and economic success stories in that area. The seed of democracy needs to take root and grow. If I was a business, I would be planning on the same thing in Syria.

    August 3, 2012 at 8:06 am | Reply
    • uhadit


      August 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Reply
  7. Majav

    Blaming the UN for Syria's woes is like blaming a neatly applied band aid for a leg amputation. How can the UN possibly counter civil strife brought on by ancient Cold War alliances? The Baltics were fodder as Russia coveting the ice-free ports of Riga and Tallinn. It took five years of war and millions of deaths for Russia to secure these ports.

    Syria is now fodder for much the same thing as Mother Russia seeks to hold onto its last remaining military base on foreign soil- Tartus.

    It is quite revealing why Russia is not cooperative. Russia's sole foreign military base in Syria must be the last straw for Putin. The USA has 662 bases in 38 countries. And, Americans think Russia is brandishing an imperial sword? The USA is the most imperial nation ever known if your count the number of government employees working abroad.

    The Middle East is a colony of the USA. Syria being the last region be colonized. Syria is Putin's last stand. Custer was actually in a better position, but don't you dare tell Putin that!

    August 3, 2012 at 9:18 am | Reply
    • RLTJ's

      Haahhh. They can lick their bitter wounds in the dark if the west wants. But that puts them among the enemies of the Israelis and the Americans already living in the dark.

      August 3, 2012 at 10:11 am | Reply
      • RLTJ's

        Well, if the Americans can call that progress.

        August 3, 2012 at 10:15 am |
      • RLTJ's

        cooperative, neutral, sympathetic, supportive, hostile. They all have different meanings and the differences are great. Diplomacy might be dead in Syria but it should not be killed.

        August 3, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Excellent Analysis

      Great insight...but you must forgive those 38 countries as to why they accept an American military presence and not a Russian one (i.e. history, the vast majority of the bases in which a large US military presence exists was established immediately after WWII and during the Cold War to prevent then-Soviet aggression). If Russia wanted to flex its military presence, I don't see what's stopping it now (in the Warsaw pact countries, in the CIS countries, Cuba, North Korea, and so on).

      August 3, 2012 at 10:50 am | Reply
    • rick

      a "little knowledge can be a dangerous thing" and this poster proves it.

      August 3, 2012 at 11:14 am | Reply
  8. eroteme

    There has been speculation wondering just what this New World Order is. I believe it may be the American belief that there is competetion between the USA and the United Nations for ruling the world.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:19 am | Reply
    • rick

      it is a journey of many miles between "belief" and "fact". its hard to complete the journey with only half of your wit. don't stop looking for the other half so that you can complete the trip.

      August 3, 2012 at 11:17 am | Reply
  9. CalDude

    Who wants to replace Annan and work with these fine folks in the UN?

    August 3, 2012 at 9:55 am | Reply
  10. RLTJ's

    Sad reality is Syria has become a matter of opinion. The prospect there is that majority should ram its opinions over that of a minority.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:56 am | Reply
  11. CalDude

    This world needs a STRONG USA.

    Replace Obama.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:56 am | Reply
  12. RLTJ's

    And if we look at the world in terms of only two camps, the East and the West, José Luis Díaz of Amnesty International is in fact already taking side. His statement is full of opinions pointing to a side.

    August 3, 2012 at 10:02 am | Reply
    • RLTJ's

      [And Amnesty International is supposed to be a non-partisan organization that should not be added to the casualties of political conflicts.]

      August 3, 2012 at 10:22 am | Reply
    • Gregory

      The FSA has a death penalty backed zero-tolerance policy towards dissent! Despite the fact that one FSA brigade after another has been caught red handed in the murder and torture of prisoners and civilians, Amnesty have refused to call for an arms embargo. The organisation is not simply partisan, Amnesty are overtly supporting a revolution extensively involving Islamic militants wherein the insurgents are behaving like the Khmer Rouge.

      August 7, 2012 at 7:38 am | Reply
  13. Andrew

    Actually the UN is doing exactly what it was designed to do. The charter of the UN allows member states to vote on what actions the UN will or will not take and allow members of the security council to veto resolutions. So in this sense the UN has not failed at all. The solution of course is to trade in the UN for an organization that does what everyone wants the problem is that not everyone wants the same thing. Or we could trade it in for an organization where only 1 or 2 states get to decide everything.

    We sort of had that in 1950 when the USSR was boycotting the UN and China was not even a member. The result there was that the UN voted its member states to go to war to stop North Korea from taking over South Korea(of course this was largely borne by the US). So here we are, the UN is more democratic and inclusive than it used to be people are not getting what they want.

    We can give the Russians and the Chinese the benefit of the doubt in that they probably don't want civilians slaughtered en-masse, they'd prefer that the whole mess just go away and return the the 'status quo'.

    Democracy doesn't mean you get what you want. It just allows you to ask.

    August 3, 2012 at 10:34 am | Reply
  14. Mikeaaa

    Nothing good comes from the UN. The U.S. should leave it.

    August 3, 2012 at 11:24 am | Reply
    • Nina


      August 4, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  15. Malfean

    Since no one bothered to arrest or even attempt to arrest people like Henry Kissinger, Ariel Sharon, Dick Cheney, that maniac ruling Iran, or even Fidel... it merely shows that the ICC, the Hauge, the UN, and all these other so-called World Bodies are totally politicized and utterly useless. what's the point of a War Crimes group if it has NO teeth? People always point to things like the Eichmann abduction by Mossad... good on Israel, I say, because they took care of something no one else would. Oh, sure, they paid a lip service to wanting to catch the guy... but hey, he was living large in Argentina, the Argentian Government knew where he was and could have nabbed him anytime they felt like it, but they didn't. So if one country would refuse extradition of someone like that... how are we to expect a world body to act on a War Criminal who couldn't even hold a candle to Eichmann?

    Simple answer is: They won't.

    You want Assad? you have to ignore the world and its petty self-minded politics and go in and get him yourself. Israeli's figured it out, hell, even the Russian's figured that out (see Traitor in London with Polonium for details*) why can't anyone else?

    August 3, 2012 at 11:28 am | Reply
  16. Jason

    It's a pity Nelson Mandela is not in good health because he would been the person to deliver peace. He sat with people that imprisoned him for 27 years and managed to change things – why can't the rebels do that if they really want to save lives. How did anyone think there was going to be peace when Hilary Clinton came out of the last meeting including Susan Rica saying we don't think it's going to work – regime change is the only way. That gave the rebels no reason to want a cease fire because they had support behind them. It's so sad to see so many people die because of a goal to change a few people in power.

    August 3, 2012 at 11:35 am | Reply
  17. No More Mexs

    The UN will talk Assad to death.

    August 3, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  18. Chaniyan

    How about removing the Veto power from the Security Council? Huh? Huhh? Anyone ever think of that? Huh? A majority vote should be the order of the day. Then none of these side alliances will cause it all to breakdown? We can finally have united world pressure on issues like Palestine-Israel, Kashmir, Syria, Iran, Northern Ireland, Falklands and what not.

    August 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Reply
  19. Joshua Wertheim

    The League of Nations was an abject failure after the First World War, and finally we can put to rest any belief that the United Nations isn't the same waste of time and money. Politics, Special Interests, and the whims of individual governments will always take precedence over the needs of the people that the UN was chartered to protect. Whether it be Syria, Rwanda, or anywhere else where innocent people are slaughtered without consequences for the murderers, the world has a terrible history of standing by and watching until it is too late. Shame on everyone, with a particular shout-out to the American public which watches the killing and says "That's too bad, but it isn't our problem".

    August 4, 2012 at 8:51 am | Reply
    • Nina

      Well you see the Americans are clearly aware how their largess is rewarded-especially within the muslim world.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
    • Voiceinthedesert/Troubledgoodangel

      I agree. The League of Nations should have been reformed even before World war II, and the United Nations should certainly have been reformed after the Berlin Wall fell. The current UN is a Cold War era paper-tiger-behemot! People at major world universities, leaders of the world, and think tanks: When are you going to get smarter? How long will we the People wait?

      August 5, 2012 at 12:56 am | Reply
    • Nina

      As hard as you try to sound Jewish, you still come off as a muslim.

      August 5, 2012 at 10:26 am | Reply
  20. deniz boro

    This is an open forum that brings in opinions of the contributors. The Page owner limits his/her intiferance to decent talk. No need to blame the page whereas he/she tries to be impartial when none of your governments do. Steam off somewhere else. And if you have something to say, please read first.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  21. Voiceinthedesert/Troubledgoodangel

    The real problem may be the UN Charter, which needs a drastic rewriting, to prevent nations like Russia and China from vetoing UN help in cases of genocide! Until this is done, it is gratuitous to blame the UN!

    August 5, 2012 at 12:48 am | Reply
  22. Uber News Network (UNN) ©

    We subscribe to the school of thought (as propagated by many commentators on this forum, most prominent being @krm1007 ©™, that these G2/4/6/8/20 etc, IMF, World Bank and UN et al have lived their utility and should be undone.
    An elected world government should emerge based on democratic principles of one person one vote. There will be no veto powers. The center of seat will be based in developing countries

    August 5, 2012 at 11:01 am | Reply
    • Nina

      krm1007 ©™ and Uber News Network (UNN) © are the same guy.

      August 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  23. Riaz

    For years US and UK have undermined UN Security council by vetoing on numerous occasions resolutions to support their ally Israel. Who can forget Bosnia where not a single European country intervened to help Bosnian muslims. Infact to protect their well armed troops Dutch generals handed over innocent civlians to Serbs to be butchered. The resolutions for Bosnia were way stronger than resolutions against Iraq or Libya. So for years US and UK have picked and choose to humuliate UN over an over again.

    Finally Russia and China have graduated from the school which has been taught by US and UK.

    August 5, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Reply
  24. Gregory

    Amnesty are distributing propaganda on behalf of paramilitaries accused by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights of crimes against humanity. The FSA violations in relation to the Geneva Convention over the course of this loathsome civil war, would appear to be virtually 100 percent. The Free Syrian Army began murdering prisoners from the very beginning of the conflict, suggestions by Amnesty it is a recent innovation are a brazen lie. Not one Alawi or Christian soldier loyal to the regime has survived capture by the insurgents, some Alawi soldiers with pro-regime tattoos have been flayed alive. Amnesty's conduct is quite frankly a disgrace.

    August 7, 2012 at 7:30 am | Reply
  25. Joseph McCarthy/Quigley/LyndsieGraham/krm1007 ©™/Joe Collins/J. Foster Dulles/Marine5484

    I am a useless piece of camel dung. I post anti American, anti GB, anti semite, anti India, anti modern anything because I am a good moooooslem. I steal people's monikers because I am so ashamed of myself and post the most stupid comment. When people get angry with me, I claim insanity. I am the same guy.

    August 18, 2012 at 9:10 am | Reply
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