On 24 February, the Special Representative of the Syrian National Coalition to the UN, Dr. Najib Ghadbian, delivered the SNC's twelfth letter of compliance to resolution 2139 to the Security Council. The letter
- calls attention to the atrocities unfolding in eastern Ghouta and Aleppo
- expresses the urgent need for Security Council action to stop the Syrian regime's slaughtering of civilians
- describes how the actions in Aleppo and eastern Ghouta constitute war crimes and crimes and crimes against humanity
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations
President of the UN Security Council
On behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, it is my grave responsibility to draw your attention to the atrocities unfolding across eastern Ghouta and Aleppo, and the urgent need for Security Council action to stop the Syrian regime’s relentless slaughter of civilians, in direct violation of UN Security Council resolution 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014).
The humanitarian situation in eastern Ghouta is catastrophic. Shortly after the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs briefed the Security Council on 28 January 2015, Syrian regime forces launched a series of savage attacks on the opposition-held towns of Duma, Saqba, Hamoryah and Erbin, deploying indiscriminate barrel bomb, heavy artillery and surface-to-surface missiles on marketplaces and civilian residencies. These attacks are part of a systematic campaign to wipe out dissent in eastern Ghouta, and cleanse the area of suspected opposition sympathisers. In the first ten days of these attacks, 183 people were killed, of whom 55 were women and children.
A similarly deadly attack is currently underway in Aleppo and its outskirts. On 29 January, 14 civilians were killed following airstrikes by regime aerial forces on the Al Bab areas of Aleppo governorate. On February 17, Syrian regime forces backed by Hezbollah militias, attacked several villages north of Aleppo. These attacks resulted in the deaths of at least 92 civilians, including seven women and 26 children. The effort, which is ongoing, is part of a transparent attempt to besiege civilian-occupied areas in Aleppo and undercut the UN Special Envoy to Syria’s initiative to halt the violence in Syria’s second largest city.
The actions perpetrated in Aleppo and eastern Ghouta constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. They violate the fourth Geneva Convention, to which Syria is a party, as well as Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014), all of which prohibit the use of barrel bombs by Syrian regime forces.
The war crimes perpetrated by Syrian regime forces are, according to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, being conducted as a “matter of State policy” (A/HRC/28/69). This state policy has resulted in over 210,000 deaths, caused 12.2 million Syrians to be in need, and forced 11.4 million people from their homes, 3.8 million of whom are currently living in refuge in neighbouring states. It has also have given rise to extremist groups. Over the past 50 days, extremist terrorist groups represented by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Al Nusra Front have executed no less than 103 people in seven provinces. The Syrian National Coalition and our partner on the ground, the Free Syrian Army, unequivocally condemn these twisted terrorist groups and we will continue to work to rid them from our lands.
But make no mistake: the conflict in Syria, and the rapid proliferation of terrorist groups like ISIL, will not end until the international community takes action to stop the Syrian regime’s atrocities. Terrorists likes ISIL will continue to rape, kill and terrorise innocent civilians so long as impunity continues to reign in Syria, and so long as the Syrian regime continues to breed hate and insecurity. To stop ISIL and its brethren, the Security Council must take comprehensive action to end the culture of impunity in Syria and hold war criminals responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. This requires that the Security Council take steps to:
- condemn and prevent the regime's use of indiscriminate force in eastern Ghouta and Aleppo. The UN Security Council should express in writing its commitment to enforce international law and adopt a new, strong and enforceable resolution that acts as a real deterrent against future atrocities in eastern Ghouta, Aleppo and elsewhere;
refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court and make public the names of suspected war criminals. In March 2015, the Independent Commission of Inquiry for the Syrian Arab Republic will deliver its fifth list of alleged perpetrators to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. For the sake of justice and to prevent future atrocities, the Security Council should call on the Commission of Inquiry to make these names public and refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC);
- enforce the mandate of UN Security Council resolutions 2191 and 2165. Despite the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2191 (2014) and 2165 (2014), the Syrian regime continues to obstruct the delivery of urgently needed aid to besieged areas and to impose administrative obstacles that prevent the movement of humanitarian assistance to hard-to-reach areas. UN agencies also continue to fail to meet the needs of the more than 3 million Syrians trapped behind borders. The Security Council should demand the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 2191 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2139 (2014) and call on UN agencies to upscale their assistance across Syria’s border with Turkey and Jordan;
- increase humanitarian commitments to the Syrian people. Humanitarian donations to Syria are failing to meet the growing needs of civilians inside and outside of Syria. On 31 March, the Third International Pledging Conference for Syria will take place in Kuwait city. Past pledging conferences in 2013 and 2014 raised US$1.5 and US$2.4 billion, respectively. This year, far more is needed. On behalf of the people of Syria, we ask that members of the Security Council increase their commitments at this year’s pledging conference to ensure that the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan and the Strategic Response Plan for Syria meet the UN’s goal of raising US$8.4 billion to help nearly 18 million people in Syria and the region.
Your Excellency, without these actions, the conflict in Syria will continue, and more innocent lives will be lost. By employing comprehensive action today, the Security Council can effectively end the slaughter in eastern Ghouta and Aleppo, and lay the foundation for a peaceful solution to the conflict. The achievement of such a solution remains the core objective of the Syrian Coalition’s work, and it is why on 15 February 2015, the Syrian National Coalition’s General Assembly approved a 13-item document of basic principles for a political settlement to the Syrian conflict, attached as Annex I of this letter. Our goal remains to achieve a political solution to the conflict based on the Geneva Communiqué, and thereby lay the foundations for a future Syria that is free of terrorists and the tyranny that foments it. The Security Council must demonstrate its commitment to this goal by taking concrete steps to achieve it.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Special Representative to the United Nations
National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces