Russia must not block international efforts to tackle the ongoing violence and human rights violations in Syria, Amnesty International said today amid negotiations over a resolution on Syria at the UN Security Council.
Russian officials have threatened to veto the resolution if it comes to a vote.
Russia was one of several Security Council members to block a previous resolution on Syria on 4 October 2011. According to reports received by Amnesty International, more than 2,600 people have been killed in Syria since then.
“Russia’s threats to abort a binding UN Security Council resolution on Syria for the second time are utterly irresponsible. Russia bears a heavy responsibility for allowing the brutal crackdown on legitimate dissent in Syria to continue unchecked,” said José Luis Díaz, Amnesty International's representative to the UN in New York.
“Russia must work with other Security Council members to pass a strong and legally binding resolution that will help to end the bloodshed and human rights violations in Syria once and for all.”
As the Syrian government’s largest overseas arms supplier, Russia has reportedly continued arms shipments into the country in recent weeks, even as Arab League observers reported back on ongoing human rights violations carried out by Syrian security forces.
Amnesty International has called for the Security Council resolution to refer the deteriorating situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, impose an arms embargo on Syria and to freeze the foreign assets of President Bashar al-Assad and other senior figures.
The new draft resolution is based heavily on a resolution adopted by the Arab League on 22 January, in the aftermath of a report by the observer mission it sent to Syria in December 2011.
The Arab League text called for, among other things, the Syrian authorities and the opposition to begin serious political dialogue within two weeks on issues including the formation of a national unity government; restoring security; and reorganizing the police.
It also called for an independent commission of inquiry to be set up by the national unity government to investigate human rights violations against the Syrian people and ensure those responsible are brought to justice.
The Syrian authorities have rejected that proposal.
While the latest draft UN Security Council resolution is a step in the right direction, it fails to request an asset freeze, the referral of situation in Syria to the ICC or a comprehensive arms embargo.
Amnesty International has concluded that crimes against humanity are taking place in Syria – a finding also made by a UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry months ago. The draft resolution does not echo the UN Commission’s explicit call for independent and impartial investigations of all suspected perpetrators of such grave crimes.
“It is encouraging that the UNSC is finally poised to take action to address the Syrian crisis. But the draft falls short of what’s required,” said José Luis Díaz.
“After more than 10 months of a government campaign of killings, arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearances, clear mechanisms for accountability must be at the heart of the Security Council's efforts to end the crisis.”
“The Security Council must now refer the deteriorating situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, freeze the overseas assets of President al-Assad and his senior associates, and impose an arms embargo.”
Amnesty International is also calling for international human rights monitors – including human rights organizations like itself – to be allowed full and unfettered access to Syria to report on crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses, whoever the perpetrators are.