UN council condemns use of force by Syria
Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on August 5, 2011
4 August 2011
UNITED NATIONS – In its first substantive action on Syria’s five-month-old uprising, the UN Security Council on Wednesday condemned human rights violations and use of force against civilians by Syrian authorities.
In a rare but not unprecedented move, Syria’s neighbor Lebanon, where Damascus’ influence is strong, disassociated itself from a formal statement agreed by the other 14 members of the council.
A Lebanese envoy said the Western-drafted statement would not help the situation. Statements are meant to be unanimous, meaning Lebanon could have blocked it, but by simply disassociating itself Beirut allowed the statement to pass.
The statement, read out to a council meeting by Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, this month’s president of the body, “condemns widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.”
The document, agreed after three days of hard bargaining instead of a full council resolution that the West would have preferred, also urges Damascus to fully respect human rights and comply with its obligations under international law.
The council called for “an immediate end to all violence and urges all sides to act with utmost restraint, and to refrain from reprisals, including attacks against state institutions.”
That phrase was a gesture to Russia and other countries that had called for a balanced statement that would apportion to both sides blame for the violence in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Weeks of frustration
A resolution on Syria drafted by West European countries had been languishing in the Security Council for two months, blocked by opposition from Russia, China and several nonaligned countries.
The Europeans resurrected it this week, galvanized by weekend violence in the Syrian city of Hama in which more than 80 people died. Russia and its supporters eventually agreed to council action but insisted that it be just a statement, which carries less clout than a resolution, diplomats said.
The statement ends weeks of frustration for Western nations, which had faced a threatened veto of their resolution by Russia and China and had been unable to persuade temporary council members Brazil, India and South Africa to support it.
Russia, a long-standing ally of Damascus, had argued that it did not want a repeat of a March 17 council resolution on Libya that was cited by Western countries as justification for air strikes on the forces of leader Muammar Gaddafi. Moscow said that was an abuse of the terms of the resolution.
The bloodshed in Hama appeared to have broken the logjam in the council, diplomats said.
The statement contains no provision for sanctions or other punitive measures against Syria, nor does it call for a referral of Syrian leaders to the International Criminal Court, as some human rights groups have demanded.
The only future action provided for is a request to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back to the council within seven days on the situation in Syria. It does not specify what follow-up there might be to his report.