On 23 April, the Special Representative of the Syrian National Coalition to the United Nations, Dr. Najib Ghadbian, sent a letter to the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria. The letter discusses the regime's ongoing violations of UNSC resolutions 2139, 2165 and 2191 and calls on the Security Council to:
1. protect civilians by authorizing a no-fly zone
2. demand UN access to Syria's besieged areas, with or without regime consent
3. increase humanitarian commitments to the Syrian people
4. ensure accountability by referring the situation in Syria to the ICC
There is a copy of the letter below and available in PDF here.
23 April 2015
On behalf of the Syrian people and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, it is with great alarm that I draw your attention to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria. The repeated and systematic use of chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, barrel bombs, torture and siege tactics against Syrian civilians—including women and children—demands immediate and decisive Security Council action, including through the authorization of a no-fly zone.
Since the Security Council last heard from the Under-Secretary-General and the Emergency Relief Coordinator on the humanitarian situation in Syria, the violence perpetrated by Syrian regime forces and the terrorist extremist group ISIL has escalated sharply. On 1 April 2015, after besieging the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk for two years, regime forces facilitated ISIL’s infiltration of the camp, where it continued to terrorize the civilian population.
In Idlib, Syrian regime forces repeatedly used the chemical weapon chlorine gas to terrorize the civilian population, including on 16 April 2015, when regime helicopters launched double chemical aerial strikes on the villages of Sarmin and Korin, in direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2209 (2015). The attacks in Idlib in April followed a month of repeated chlorine gas attacks by Syrian regime air forces, which resulted in no less than 206 victims. But chemical weapons were just one of the tools Syrian regime forces used to terrorize and kill innocent civilians by air.
Across opposition-held areas in Idlib, Aleppo, Modamyeh, Dar’a, Homs and Rural Damascus, Syrian regime forces used indiscriminate aerial bombings to kill, injure and maim civilians, and to destroy homes and civilian infrastructure. As Assad’s forces withdrew to positions south of Idlib city, the regime launched surface-to-surface rockets and aerial attacks, including barrel bombs that damaged more than 350 structures. Aerial bombings in Sarmin, Mantaf and Nayrab between 29 and 31 March resulted in the deaths of 49 civilians, while a barrel bomb attack in Aleppo city on 6 March resulted in the deaths of at least 20 civilians. Rural Damascus also continued to be a site of heavy regime shelling and aerial bombardment. On 10 March, airstrikes near a primary school in Dier al-Asafeer resulted in two civilian deaths and 50 injured, of which many were children. Airstrikes on 14 and 15 March on civilian areas in Na-oura Garden and al-Masaken killed 38 civilians and injured 147 others. These actions violated Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014), as outlined in Annex I.
The Syrian Coalition condemns the atrocities committed by the Syrian regime and we condemn the atrocities committed by terrorist extremist groups. Both must be stopped. Both must be held accountable. Both are also interlinked.
The Syrian regime’s brutal oppression of a democratic uprising and its systematic destruction of civilian life and infrastructure has generated instability and chaos across Syria and made it a safe-haven for extremist terrorist groups. Using Syria as a base from which to launch attacks and build resources, ISIL now allegedly has affiliates in various countries throughout the world. It recruits actively from Europe, North America, the Middle East and Africa and represents a direct threat to the safety and interests of all nations represented on the Security Council.
Your Excellency, all peoples have a stake in stopping ISIL and ending its brutality. But no one has a greater stake in stopping ISIL than the Syrian people. That is why, for the past 12 months, the Free Syrian Army has served as the frontline on terror in Syria—waging a two-front war against both ISIL and Assad. Tragically, however, the moderate majority of Syria will not win the war against terror and tyranny in the absence of international support. That is why I am appealing to the Security Council to adopt a comprehensive approach to the crisis in Syria that tackles both ISIL and its root cause: the Assad regime.
In particular, the Syrian Coalition calls on the Security Council to:
protect civilians by authorizing a no-fly zone. Indiscriminate aerial bombardment is the principle cause of civilian death in Syria. A no-fly zone would put an immediate halt to such suffering, reducing the rate of the death toll by as much as 30 percent. It would create the conditions needed to establish a safe zone and enable Syria’s displaced people to begin the process of return;
demand UN access to Syria’s besieged areas, with or without regime consent. The UN estimates that 440,000 Syrians are currently living in besieged areas. According to the Secretary-General, roughly half of those are besieged by regime forces and the other half by terrorist extremist groups. The Security Council should demand free access to all besieged areas, so that food, water and urgently needed medical care can reach all those who need it;
Increase humanitarian commitments to the Syrian people. On 31 March, the Third International Pledging Conference for Syria took place in Kuwait city. While donor states contributed generously, the UN is still just halfway towards meeting its goal of raising US$8.4 billion to help the people of Syria. On behalf of my people, I ask that members of the Council increase their pledges to the UN and to nongovernmental organisations working to deliver aid to innocent civilians;
ensure accountability by referring the situation in Syria to the ICC. Syrian regime forces and terrorist extremist terrorist groups like ISIL continue to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity with impunity. An ICC referral would end impunity, deter further atrocities and bring justice to victims.
Your Excellency, the actions proposed above will save lives in Syria. They will also begin to get a grip of the situation, potentially laying the foundation for a much-needed political solution to the crisis. Through the concerted actions of a united Security Council, this institution can help to restore peace and stability to Syria. If, however, you fail to find the consensus needed, I urge Member States to employ the measures necessary to stop the bloodbath in Syria and provide the protection our people so desperately require.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.