The Security Council Has Not Imposed Any Sanctions Against the Syrian Regime Despite the Continuing Violations for Eight Years
By: Rick Bajornas
In its latest report, released today, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) calls on the Security Council to impose sanctions on the Syrian regime, stressing that the Syrian regime and its allies bear full responsibility for the imposition of international sanctions for committing atrocities against the Syrian people.
The four-page report includes that over the past eight years the Syrian people have been subjected to various types of violations by the ruling authority, ranging from extrajudicial killings to torture and enforced disappearance, up to and including the use of chemical weapons against them, with a large proportion of these violations having already been classified as crimes against humanity and war crimes.
In this context, the report provides a record of the most notable human rights violations that the Syrian people have suffered at the hands of the government led by Bashar al Assad. The current toll of victims stands at at least 198,532 civilians who have been killed by Syrian Regime forces, including 22,523 children, 11,732 women (adult female), 657 medical personnel, 158 Civil Defense personnel, and 544 media workers, in addition to 14,009 persons who died as a result of torture.
The report further reveals that at least 127,916 individuals, including 3,469 children and 7,721 women (adult female), are still detained in the prisons of Syrian Regime forces, while at least 82,000 individuals have been forcibly disappeared.
As the report states, the Syrian regime has carried out at least 216 chemical weapons attacks, 217 cluster munition attacks, and 19 incendiary weapons attacks on populated areas, while at least 77,146 barrel bombs have been dropped by Syrian regime helicopters and warplanes.
Also, according to the report, at least 14.2 million people have been internally displaced or made refugees as a result of attacks carried out by Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance forces.
The report stresses that the unspeakably horrific scale of the violations perpetrated by the ruling authority against the Syrian people must be countered with a response of matching severity in accordance with Articles 39-41-42 of the Charter of the United Nations, with action by the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against the government of Bashar al Assad. These sanctions, which are supposed to represent the bare minimum as an expression of the Security Council’s rejection of the brutal practices of the Syrian regime, should begin, at the very least, with an arms embargo which would constitute a form of pressure on the Syrian regime and send a message of objection that could contribute to alleviating the horrendous level of violations committed. Despite all these violations, however, the Security Council has taken no action whatsoever to protect the Syrian people even through the most basic step of imposing sanctions.
The report notes that it is essential to bear in mind Russia’s prominent role in supporting and enabling the Syrian regime to perpetrate various types of crimes, and its actions in the Security Council through deploying its veto power, which it has used on 12 occasions to date to protect the Syrian regime. Russia vetoed a draft resolution (S/2017/172) on February 28, 2017, which sought to impose sanctions on companies and individuals associated with Syrian regime organs that have been proven to be involved in the use of chemical weapons.
The report points out that the complete failure of the UN Security Council in its mission in Syria led a number of countries around the world to assume some of their responsibilities towards punishing the Syrian regime and achieving some kind of accountability against its brutal practices. The United States, the European Union and a number of other countries have imposed economic and political sanctions against the Syrian regime in order to pressure it to change its criminal behavior and to push it to accept a political process leading to a democratic change process.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime does not care about the suffering of the Syrians under its control or those who broke free from its control, with its primary, nay sole, concern being to retain power even if hundreds of thousands of Syrians must be killed and most of the Syrian population displaced with their dignity humiliated, homes destroyed, and the national currency collapsed in order to achieve this objective. In effect, the Syrian regime has taken the Syrian people and state hostage, linking their fate and survival to its own fate.
The report also stresses that economic sanctions against the Syrian regime alone are vastly inadequate and need a long time to be effective. Therefore, these must be advanced to the second level of sanctions, that is, military sanctions, which must be accompanied by a political process, accelerating a political transition.
The report recommends that the UN Security Council impose sanctions on the Syrian regime targeting bodies and individuals involved in committing atrocities. At the top of these sanctions should be the arms embargo and travel ban.
The report calls on local and international media to contribute to raising awareness among the regional community by holding the Syrian regime directly responsible for the sanctions and their consequences, and stressing that the solution to these is not to lift the sanctions, which would only contribute to the regime rearming its forces, and thus escalate and feed a cycle of horrendous violations for many years, leading to the survival of the Assad family’s tyrannical hereditary rule for decades.
The report points out that sanctions have a symbolic meaning, that is, they represent a statement of political and international isolation, and any call for the lifting of sanctions on a regime is a statement of support for the continuation of these violations and the lifting of international isolation. Instead, there must be a prompt demand for more deterrent and protective measures for the Syrians.
The report also calls on the High Commission for Human Rights and the International Commission of Inquiry to recommend that the Security Council impose sanctions against the Syrian regime in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law, primarily a comprehensive arms embargo.
Finally, the report stresses that sanctions, however intelligent, will adversely affect society and cause some degree of suffering and distress, asserting therefore that the impact and effectiveness of sanctions must be periodically re-evaluated, in order to calculate these sanctions so as to maximize the weakening of the regime’s forces, militias and allied mafias, and to penalize the states that invest in this barbaric regime, whilst having the lowest possible impact on the lives of civilians already being effectively held as hostages under the authority of the ruling regime.