Over the past several days, the international community has worked to increase pressure on the Syrian government as violence continues.
The United Nations (UN) has said that at least 3,500 have been killed over the past eight months as government forces violently target civilians throughout the country.
Report Finds “Gross Violations of Human Rights” in Syria
In a report released today, the Independent International Commission on Syria found that “gross violations of human rights have been committed by Syrian military and security forces since the beginning of the protests in March 2011.”
Commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, the report expressed concern about documented patterns of “summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.” The report also found that at least 250 children have been killed as a result of the violence.
Read the report (PDF).
UN General Assembly Passes Resolution Condemning Violence by the Syrian Government
“Not a single Arab country voted against the resolution. Even Sudan backed it.
The resolution was co-sponsored by Turkey, a former ally, and six Arab governments — Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait and Morocco, which will begin serving as the Arab world’s lone representative on the Security Council. Egypt, which had initially urged governments to oppose the resolution, ultimately voted in favor.”
The resolution is non-binding, but represents a political victory. The UNGA resolution demonstrates that the vast majority of the international community supports action against the Syrian regime. Additionally, the resolution highlights the efforts of regional actors to further increase political and economic pressure.
Arab League Imposes Sanctions on Syria
Yesterday, the Arab League approved sanctions against the Syrian government. Despite signing an agreement with the regional body several weeks ago, Syria has failed implement key provisions. The regime has failed to cease attacks on civilians and has prevented Arab League observers gaining access.
The sanctions halt transactions with Syria’s central bank, impose an embargo on investments, freeze Syrian government assets, and ban government officials from traveling to member states. Some details still need to be worked out, including exceptions to lessen negative impacts on the Syrian people and a ban on all flights into Syria from Arab nations.
Russia Sends Warships to Its Syrian Military Base
This morning it was announced that Russia is sending warships to its base in Syria. According to news sources, a navy spokesman “confirmed that the Russian warships would head to the maintenance base Russia keeps on the Syrian coast near Tartus but said the trip had nothing to do with the uprising against Assad.”
There is some speculation that the move is an attempt by Russia to protect its interests in the region, including millions of dollars in weapons sales to the Syrian regime. Russia has been a troubling influence and has continued to support the regime both politically and economically. Last month, Russia was joined by China in vetoing a resolution at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that would have imposed sanctions.
Up Next: Action at the UN Security Council
Despite last month’s failure to adopt UNSC sanctions, it is anticipated that there will be another push to pass a resolution. This effort is bolstered by the UNGA resolution and an explicit request for UNSC action by the Arab League.
However, challenges remain. It’s worth noting that four key UNSC members abstained from the UNGA resolution: China, India, Russia and South Africa. Given the Arab League’s call for action, China would seem unlikely to cast a vote against future UNSC resolutions on Syria. Support from India and South Africa would be politically helpful, but neither country has the veto power that would be required to block a resolution.
This leaves Russia, which has already served as an enabler of the regime. Unfortunately, it seems likely that Russia will continue to play a problematic role and would be willing to exercise its veto power once again to prevent the UNSC from taking action.