Syria: Failure to uphold UN resolution requires decisive Council action

The UN Security Council must take concrete action, including threatening targeted sanctions, against parties in Syria that are brazenly flouting the terms of a unanimous UN resolution calling for immediate humanitarian access and an end to human rights abuses, said Amnesty International. 

The Council is due to discuss Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s second report on the implementation of the UN resolution today.

“The humanitarian situation in Syria is beyond catastrophic. More than two months after a UN resolution to alleviate the suffering of civilians and end war crimes was adopted, the situation there has only worsened,” said José Luis Díaz, head of Amnesty International’s UN office in New York. 

“If the Security Council is to salvage what credibility it has left on Syria it has to ensure its unanimous decision is respected, including by making good on its intention to take further steps to get the different parties to comply. Additional measures, including sanctions, must be taken against those responsible for violating the terms of the resolution.”

More than 9 million people in Syria urgently need humanitarian aid, including those under siege and in hard-to-reach areas. Arbitrary detentions and abductions as well as indiscriminate attacks on civilians have continued unabated. Government forces are mostly responsible but armed groups are also to blame. 

Under the terms of Resolution 2139 adopted in February, Security Council members are committed to “take further steps” if the resolution is not being implemented. 

Russia, which along with China has vetoed three previous UN Security Council resolutions on the situation in Syria since the crisis began, will be key to decisive Security Council action.

“If Russia is serious about the legitimacy and credibility of the Security Council, as it consistently claims, then it should support decisive Council action and not allow resolution 2139, which it voted for, to continue to be so callously disregarded,” said José Luis Díaz.

Despite a slight monthly increase in recipients of humanitarian assistance, aid to most of those in need remains blocked, and patterns of war crimes and crimes against humanity have continued unabated. 

Government forces in particular continue to enforce sieges, including upon 20,000 civilians in Yarmouk, south of Damascus. Since Amnesty International published its last report on the situation in Yarmouk in March 2014, which included details of 194 siege-related deaths among residents, all said to be civilians, at least 60 further such deaths have been reported, including 19 from starvation.

“In Yarmouk and across Syria besieged civilians are continuing to suffer and die because of a failure to ensure that the resolution is being implemented on the ground,” said José Luis Díaz.

Government forces have also pummelled swathes of rebel-held Aleppo city, as well as besieged Daraya, for example, with indiscriminate, unguided barrel bombs. Practices of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and deaths in custody – including in the custody of armed groups – continue relentlessly. 

The authorities have also failed to comply with the resolution’s call to release all arbitrarily held detainees, who include prisoners of conscience.  Despite a few recent releases, armed groups also continue to hold civil society activists and others.