Letter to UN Secretary General on the Situation in Arsal

25 September 2014

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

On behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (Syrian Coalition), I am writing to call your urgent attention to reports of a series of appalling attacks carried out against a vulnerable population of Syrian refugees perilously trapped in camps in the Lebanese town of Arsal, near the border with Syria.

During the early hours of Thursday, 25 September 2014, elements of the Lebanese armed forces entered refugee camps located in Arsal, reportedly to conduct a counterterrorist operation. Credible reports, however, indicate that Lebanese Army personnel, acting alongside sectarian elements, terrorized the camp’s population of displaced Syrian refugees. Resident witnesses describe Lebanese armed forces setting fire to and destroying homes, attacking innocent women, children, and elderly residents, and detaining residents en masse.

The Syrian Coalition warned the international community of the possible escalation of the situation in Arsal due to the declining humanitarian situation and previous violent attacks. In a letter dated 4 August 2014, Dr. Najib Ghadbian, the Coalition’s Special Representative to the United Nations, raised the violence in Arsal and urged the UN Security Council to take immediate action to protect the lives of Syrian citizens seeking refuge from the ongoing conflict in their home country. The letter also called on the international community to ensure the Lebanese government hold to account those responsible for the unacceptable actions. The international community has a responsibility to address the humanitarian situation and security conditions in Arsal as a matter of urgency.

Your Excellency, we again call for immediate and decisive action to protect the population of innocent refugees in Arsal and other camps located near the Syria-Lebanon border. We urge that:

(a) the UN urgently investigate the latest incident and report to the UN Security Council swiftly on circumstances leading to the incident, culpability, and recommendations for next steps;

(b) the Security Council authorizes an expansion of the UNIFIL mandate explicitly to provide protection for the refugees; and

(c) should the Security Council fail to authorize an expansion of UNIFIL, that the UN deploys permanent observers into the refugee camps to monitor and report on the situation and to act as a deterrent against unacceptable treatment.

Syrian refugees face an intolerable situation. It is critical that they are not subjected to further trauma and violence when they seek refuge outside Syria from the tyrannies of Assad and ISIS inside Syria. It is critical that the UN uses its good offices to ensure that any issues or incidents inside the refugee camps are addressed in a proportionate and responsible manner by countries accommodating our people.

Please accept, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Hadi al Bahra
President of the Syrian Coalition to the United Nations

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National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces
Committed to a free, democratic, and pluralistic Syria.