Below is the text of the Syrian Coalition's 31 July 2014 letter to the UN Security Council in response to the UN Secretary-General’s Report on the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2139.
On behalf of the people of Syria and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (Syrian Coalition), it is my grave responsibility to draw to your attention the Syrian regime’s persistent violations of international humanitarian law and its refusal to implement UN Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2165.
Since the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator’s fourth report to the UN Security Council on 26 June 2014, Syrian regime forces have perpetrated some of their most brutal and barbaric war crimes to date. As a result, the holy month of Ramadan emerged as one of the deadliest months in Syria.
As illustrated by Annex I, the Syrian regime has significantly ramped up its efforts to inflict deadly aerial assaults on civilian targets in violation of UN Security Council resolution 2139. In Aleppo alone, regime-inflicted barrel bombs accounted for dozens of damage sites, with the vast majority targeted at residential districts. A little over a week ago, on Tuesday 22 July 2014, a regime aerial raid on Aleppo took the lives of six innocent children—three boys and three girls—all members of a single family.
In spite of the Security Council’s explicit demand that all parties respect the principle of medical neutrality and protect medical facilities, personnel and equipment, the Syrian regime continued to deny lifesaving supplies to thousands of Syrians in need. In July 2014 alone, regime forces launched numerous strikes against Syrian hospitals, including Aleppo’s Deir-Hafer Dispensary, the Dakkak Hospital and the Al-Ikhlas Medical Center. In direct violation of UN Security Council resolution 2139, regime personnel continued to remove medicine, including antibiotics, from convoys directed to hard-to-reach areas. According to the UN Secretary-General, these illegal tactics were implemented by the Syrian regime “as a matter of policy” (S/2014/427).
The Syrian regime also continued to deny humanitarian access to the 10.8 million Syrians in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Five months after the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2139, 4.6 million Syrians remain trapped in hard and impossible-to-reach areas owing to the Syrian regime’s refusal to provide universal access to all Syrians in need.
While the Syrian Coalition strongly welcomed the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2165 on 14 July 2014, this resolution should never have proven necessary. The Syrian regime has a legal obligation to provide Syrian citizens in need with access to humanitarian assistance—irrespective of their religion, politics or ethnicity. That resolution 2165 was needed to stop the starvation of innocent civilians is a shameful indictment of the Syrian regime’s disregard for human life and contempt for international law.
The Syrian regime’s violations of international law stand in contrast to the efforts of the Syrian Coalition to implement UN Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2165. Throughout the past month, we have succeeded in delivering aid to thousands of Syrians across the liberated territories. Our interim government has made impressive progress to serve the needs of our people, including by establishing electrical generators, reconnecting telephone lines and overseeing educational services to ensure that thousands of Syrian children get the education they deserve.
Among the efforts undertaken to ensure the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2165 were the following:
i. Delivered food and resources to Syrians in need: As required by OP 4 of UN Security Council resolution 2139, the Syrian Coalition’s interim government worked with the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) to distribute 50,000 food parcels in Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Latakia. Each parcel contained nine basic materials and weighed 40 kg, enough to last a family throughout the month of Ramadan. The Syrian Coalition’s interim government also launched a project to establish a well in the town of Salloum Qasimia and Brive in the western region of Aanjarh. Once functional, the well is expected to provide water to eight thousand Syrians.
ii. Facilitated humanitarian access across borders and conflict lines: As required by OP 2 of UN Security Council resolution 2165 and OP 6 of UN Security Council resolution 2139, the Syrian Coalition and Free Syrian Army worked hard to facilitate humanitarian access through the border crossings under our control, including through the Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa crossings with Turkey. Immediately following the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2165, we announced our readiness to cooperate with the UN and its humanitarian agencies, and to provide security in the territories under our control. Unfortunately, the negotiation of safe passage at key border crossings continues to be negotiated on an ad hoc basis, without sufficient inclusion of the Syrian Coalition and the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council. Moving forward, it is imperative that the UN and its agencies coordinate directly with our representatives, so as to ensure greater efficiency in the delivery of cross-border aid.
iii. Delivered medicine to Syrians in need: In an effort to uphold OP 8 of UN Security Council resolution 2139, the Syrian Coalition’s Interim Ministry of Health and the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) focused on the treatment of diseases in the liberated areas. In July, the Ministry of Health delivered treatments for skin diseases to the coastal areas of Syria and the ACU, in collaboration with other groups, is preparing the seventh round of polio vaccinations to be distributed in the liberated and besieged areas starting August 2. The ACU is continuing to work on the measles campaign, which will be launched in August 2014 and will provide vaccinations to millions of Syrians. The ACU is preparing an awareness campaign on typhoid fever for areas besieged by the Syrian regime due to the high levels of water contamination and is also preparing to activate the EWARN (Early Warning Alert and Response Network) system in Rif Damascus to document suspected cases of epidemic diseases.
iv. Condemned the recruitment of child soldiers: As required by OP 2 of UN Security Council resolution 2139, the Syrian Coalition and the Free Syrian Army worked to uphold human rights and international human rights law. In June 2014, the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Coalition jointly adopted the Communiqué to end and to prevent the recruitment and use of children (enclosed in Annex II), in which we resolutely condemned any recruitment and use of children within our ranks and committed to taking all steps necessary to ensure that no child is recruited or used within our forces. To ensure our stated commitments were adhered to, the Free Syrian Army instituted clear policies and orders prohibiting the recruitment and use of children in combat and auxiliary roles, and its ranks were being trained in the tenets of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), including the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child.
v. Rejected terrorism and combated extremists: As demanded by OP 14 of UN Security Council resolution 2139, the Free Syrian Army continued its efforts to combat extremist and terrorist groups in Syria. On 27 June, the Free Syrian Army established an operations centre in the province of Deir Ezzor, with the goal of stopping the Islamic State (IS) forces from gaining a stronghold in the province and terrorizing the local population. Also in late June, the Free Syrian Army defeated Hezbollah, an internationally designated terrorist group, in Morek and successfully tackled IS in Jobar, Damascus. The Free Syrian Army persists in fighting IS in Rif Raqqa. Our commitment to defeating terrorism underlines the clear distinction between Syria’s moderate armed forces—represented by the Free Syrian Army—and extremist, terrorist groups like IS and Jahbat al-Nusra , to which we bear no relation. It remains critical that the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary-General recognize fully this distinction, and adhere to the classificatory system introduced by the independent Commission of Inquiry in its 7th report on the situation of human rights in Syria published on 5 March 2014 (see paragraph 16 of A/HRC/25/65). Too often, non-state armed groups are erroneously labeled as armed opposition groups, when in fact groups like IS benefit from a close tactical and financial alliance with the Syrian regime, and share no common ground with Syria’s moderate opposition. Our commitment to defeating terrorist groups like IS remains among our chief priorities. Regrettably, however, a lack of adequate resources to Syria’s moderate opposition continues to hinder our ability to successfully expel IS and establish the foundations for a free and democratic Syria.
vi. Welcomed the appointment of the new UN envoy to Syria: The Syrian Coalition continued to press for a political solution to the Syrian conflict, as stipulated by OP 15 of UN Security Council resolution 2139. In July, the Syrian Coalition welcomed the appointment of Staffan de Mistura as UN Special Envoy to Syria and Ramzy Ezzedine Ramzy as Deputy Special Envoy to Syria. We look forward to engaging closely with the Special Envoy and his team as we work to end the violence in Syria and implement the Geneva Communiqué.
Your Excellency, thanks to the UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2165, on Thursday 24 July 2014 the first convoy of trucks successfully crossed into Syria from the Turkish crossing at Bab al-Salam. The Syrian Coalition is pleased to note that this is only the beginning. If implemented in full, UN Security Council resolution 2165 will enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance to 2.9 million people, without Syrian regime consent. This is an important development. However, even if UN Security Council resolution 2165 is fully implemented, millions of Syrians will continue to remain outside of the UN’s reach, trapped in hard and impossible-to-reach areas. Far too many people will thus continue to suffer needlessly from starvation, malnourishment and disease because the Syrian regime refuses to fulfill its legal and moral commitments. This is an outrage that the international community cannot accept.
UN Security Council resolution 2139 mandates that the Syrian regime allow aid to reach all Syrians in need. If the will of the Security Council is to be respected and the needs of all Syrians are to be met, then it is imperative that the UN take further action to ensure that aid reaches those who need it. As the Syrian Coalition and Free Syrian Army have repeatedly stated, we stand ready to facilitate access to all areas under our control, including beyond the four border crossings listed in UN Security Council resolution 2165. As the UN and its implementing partners work to deliver aid through Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, we urge the Security Council to ensure the UN and its agencies work directly with Syrian Coalition representatives so that aid reaches those in need in a timely and safe manner.
We further urge the UN to ensure the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2139. Beyond cross-border humanitarian delivery, resolution 2139 demands the cessation of indiscriminate warfare, including the use of barrel bombs, the lifting of sieges, the protection of medical and civilian facilities, and the end to arbitrary detention, imprisonment and forced disappearances. Five months following the adoption of resolution 2139, the Syrian regime has only escalated its violence resulting in more Syrian deaths, displacement and destruction. As directed by OP 17 of UN Security Council resolution 2139, the UN must take further steps to halt the ongoing violations. Syrians deserve to live in safety, security and health.
Please accept, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Dr. Najib Ghadbian
Special Representative of the Syrian Coalition to the United Nations