Guest Writer Nehad Ismail argues that the suffering in Syria is such that action must be taken with or without Security Council backing.
‘The Syrian conflict has cost an estimated 250,000 lives and displaced millions of people since March 2011. Yet Russia and China have blocked all attempts by the UN Security Council to end the bloodshed.
They did agree to the 2013 UN Security Council Resolution 2218 which established a framework for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons. However, since then there have been some 35 violations by the regime according to NGOs operating in the region.
In March of this year another Resolution was passed, this time condemning the use of chlorine, but since there has been continued and escalating violations in the form of chlorine-filled bombs dropped from helicopters.
In July this year Russia and China vetoed a draft UN resolution calling for the crisis to be referred to the international criminal court – thus they ignored support for the measure by 65 other countries and all other members of the Security Council.
Both have a long and despicable history of obstruction and prevarication.
In 1999 Russia vetoed US efforts to secure a UN Security Council Resolution authorizing military action against Yugoslavia. In 2003 it used the same tactics to frustrate a resolution calling for military action against Iraq.
In 2007 Russia and China vetoed a resolution against the Burmese military junta.
In July 2008 both rejected sanctions against the Robert Mugabe’s odious regime in Zimbabwe.
In 2011 they vetoed a resolution condemning Syria which would have been the first such legally binding move adopted by the Security Council since the regime began using its military machine against protesters in mid-March 2011 in the town of Deraa.
This summer Russia vetoed a UN resolution to create an international tribunal to prosecute those who shot down the Malaysian airliner MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014. It followed up by vetoing a resolution that would have described as “genocide” the Srebrenica massacre committed by Bosnian Serb forces against Muslims during the Bosnian War in July 1995
So Russia’s role as an obstructionist is well documented, and the Syrian regime has rejected all peace initiatives to end the conflict. It has instead chosen the path of violence and massacres aided and abetted by Iran, Russia, and China and by US indifference.
It is not clear how much longer and how many more thousands of Syrians have to die before Russia and China see sense and support the International Community to protect the people of Syria.
Over Yugoslavia, and Iraq, Washington and allies bypassed the UN and mounted military action. However, there is another precedent dating all the way back to the Korean War.
Some legal experts believe that by invoking the obscure UN Resolution 377, also known as the “Uniting for Peace” Resolution, it would not be necessary to seek a UN Security Council Resolution to take action in Syria.
On 27 June 1950 the United States called on the UN to use force to evict North Korea from South Korea as the North had ignored a Security Council Resolution of June 25th. This was voted for and Russia could not use its veto as it was then boycotting the UN. As a result the US pushed through the resolution as a means of circumventing possible Russian vetoes.
The measure states that, “in the event that the Security Council cannot maintain International Peace, a matter can be taken up by the General Assembly”. This procedure has been used 10 times so far, most notably in 1956 to help resolve the Suez Canal crisis. Britain and France, which were occupying parts of the canal at the time, vetoed Security Council resolutions calling for their withdrawal. The United States called for an emergency “Uniting for Peace” session of the General Assembly, which passed a withdrawal resolution. (A simple majority vote is required.)
There is a general but not legally universal consensus that in exceptional circumstances the International Community can act to prevent human catastrophes. In the case of a paralyzed UN Security Council, a legitimate case for action can be made by the International Community to stop flagrant war crimes, large scale violations of human rights, and ethnic cleansing.
Many experts believe that if the Security Council is incapable of acting, a new norm of intervention by a coalition of states would seem to be entirely justified where large scale atrocities are being committed. Syria is such a case.’