On 14 January 2013, 57 states including the UK sent a petition to the UN Security Council, calling for the situation in Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The petition refers to the findings of UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry, which confirmed that mass atrocities and gross violations of humanitarian law have been committed in the region since violence broke out in March 2011. As Syria has not signed the Rome Statute - the treaty establishing the Court - a Security Council referral is the easiest route to the ICC.
Earlier this month, on 2 January, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimated that the death toll in Syria to date has surpassed 60,000, saying “this is by no means a definitive figure”. Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, has warned that the figure could rise to 100,000 if the conflict does not end soon.
On 10 January, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated the UK government's position that the best way to resolve the conflict is through “political transition”. In his statement before the House of Commons, he identified six principal areas of action for UK:
- Use diplomatic means to initiate political changes, including persuading Russia and China to back a Security Council resolution sanctioning political transition in Syria;
- Support the Syrian National Coalition in developing a roadmap for the future of Syria;
- Increase efforts to bring an end to violence in the region;
- Increase humanitarian assistance to Syria;
- Chart a detailed plan for helping a future Syrian government address challenges arising from transition;
- Aid the UN to “document and deter” human rights violations in Syria.
He also said there should be “flexibility to consider taking additional steps to try to save lives if there is no progress in the near future”.
UNA-UK's own recommendations, which were forwarded to Ambassador Brahimi last year, included a number of similar points and placed emphasis on pursuing a “comprehensive Security Council resolution and post-conflict framework”.
(Image: A busy thoroughfare in the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo. Photo: UNESCO/Ron Van Oers)
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This issue of the UNA-UK Magazine looks at the seemingly intractable crisis in Syria, and in particular, the UN’s response to it. We are delighted and fortunate to have Lakhdar Brahimi guest editing this issue of the magazine.