The UN Security Council has failed Syrians. In almost six years of conflict, close to half a million people have been killed and eleven million have been forced to leave their homes. Most recently, the Syrian and Russian governments and their allies have carried out unlawful attacks on eastern Aleppo with scant regard for some 250,000 civilians trapped there.
Armed opposition groups have also fired mortars and other projectiles into civilian neighbourhoods of western Aleppo, though according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “indiscriminate airstrikes across the eastern part of the city by Government forces and their allies are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties.” Efforts to stop these atrocities and hold those responsible to account have been blocked repeatedly by Russia, which continues to misuse its veto power in the Security Council.
The UN’s special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has warned that the UN must not allow “another Srebrenica, another Rwanda, which we are sadly ready to recognize written on that wall in front of us, unless something takes place.” Yet, there is no sign that the Security Council deadlock will end anytime soon. The guardian of international peace and security has failed to fulfill its task under the UN Charter and has failed to uphold its responsibility to protect the Syrian people.
This is why we, a global coalition of 223 civil society organizations, urgently call upon UN member states to step in and request an Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly to demand an end to all unlawful attacks in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, and immediate and unhindered humanitarian access so that life-saving aid can reach all those in need. Member states should also explore possible avenues to bring perpetrators of serious crimes under international law on all sides to justice.
We welcome Canada’s leadership in seeking UN General Assembly action and we strongly urge all Member States to join the 73 countries from all regions by endorsing their initiative. These countries should work toward an Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly at the earliest opportunity, as UN member states have done in the past when the Security Council was deadlocked.
We call in particular upon the 112 supporters of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Code of Conduct, which includes a pledge to support “timely and decisive action” aimed at preventing or ending the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, to join this effort and actively promote meaningful action through the UN General Assembly.
Inaction should not be an option. UN member states should use all the diplomatic tools at their disposal to stop the atrocities and protect the millions of civilians in Syria. History will judge harshly those that fail to step up.