A Failed UNSCR, a Periodic Review and Uncertainty for Syria’s Future
The unrest in Syria, which I discuss in length in a previous article entitled “Violence in Syria,” has once again come to the forefront of UK foreign policy news. Not only did Russia and China recently make the decision to veto a UN resolution calling on Syria to stop hostility against its own people, but yesterday marked the Universal Periodic Review on Syria at the UN Human Rights Council. As the Syrian Government continues to kill, torture or jail mostly anybody wanting reform, the UK continues to take every opportunity to highlight the violence which simply does not seem to be stopping. Foreign Secretary William Hague says Britain will “continue to stand side by side with the Syrian people and redouble efforts to work with international partners to increase pressure on the regime.”
The UN Security Council resolution tabled by the UK, France, Germany and Portugal, which was vetoed by Russia and China, had called to introduce “targeted measures” against Bashar al-Assad’s government. However, the first double-veto in three years, coming from the two eastern powers, has led to outrage. Not only has the United States expressed its anger by stating that Moscow and Beijing have “sided with a regime of thugs,” but Hague claimed that the decision comes as a “bitter blow to all those Syrians who have implored the international community to take a stand.”
Although there is fear that Syria will simply turn into another Libya, Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, stated that the resolution “made it clear that any further steps would be non-military in nature” and that any action to be taken would be under the non-military section of the UN charter. Therefore, the decision to veto has come as a particular surprise as the UNSCR intended on complying with countries not wanting any involvement. Hague has made it clear that the resolution was “entirely reasonable” and that it “took account of the need for all sides to reject violence.” However, Russia and China still remain adamant in not interfering in Syria’s internal affairs and felt the resolution would disallow them from standing at a distance.
However, the veto of the UNSCR has not been the only catalyst for Hague’s recent discussions of Syria. He spoke at the Universal Periodic Review on Syria at the UN Human Rights Council where he reemphasized the UK’s position of standing by the Syrian people. The council discussed the systematic torture, rape and detention of men, women and children in Syria and led Hague to give a speech where he stated “the UK will take every opportunity to highlight the abuses in Syria that show no sign of ending” as well as highlighting that the Syrian people have not been forgotten in the eyes of the UK.
It seems that despite the UK’s efforts, and its international partners, to help the Syrian people, little change is being made. Assad’s promise of reform was simply hot air as shocking statistics of abuse are continuing to rise. Not only have more than 2,900 civilians now been killed since protests began in March, but over 10,000 people have been arrested and/or imprisoned. The United Nations Human Rights Office recently released the new death toll.
As resolutions are being vetoed, and as discussions of Syria, such as those at the recent UN Human Rights council, are merely highlighting the injustices occurring in the region, one must ask: “is any of this really going to help the violence end soon?” Even if Assad loses power entirely, the possibility of a civil war between the various sects in Syria seems increasingly likely.
This is another situation of a country plagued with unrest, as with many others in the region, that we need to see play out. Although Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said Wednesday that the international community has a “moral obligation” to help prevent further bloodshed in Syria, the key issue lies in that it is precisely the international community which is not united in its decisions on how to do so.
However, William Hague should continue to express the UK’s support for the Syrian people in order for the issue to at least remain of high importance and for awareness of human rights abuses to increase.