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. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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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