As delivered by Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. United Nations Headquarters, New York.
I would like to thank Luxembourg and the Office of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces to the UN for organizing this important event. I would also like to thank Ambassador Lucas and her team for their tireless efforts during their time on the UN Security Council, including on Resolution 2139.
As we all know, the Syrian conflict is now over four years old. 240,000 people have been killed and half of Syria’s population has been displaced. Six days ago, the Commission of Inquiry’s tenth report to the Human Rights Council documented ongoing atrocities perpetrated in Syria, including the use of barrel bombs. Commission Chair Paulo Pinhiero warned, once again: “Civilians are suffering the unimaginable, as the world stands witness.”
Barrel bombs are inherently indiscriminate. And the use of barrel bombs to kill, maim and drop chemical weapons on civilians is a flagrant violation of international law. Yet the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes continues, with responsibility at the highest levels of the Syrian government.
Understandably, with no end to the conflict in sight, Syrians continue to flee their homeland, exacerbating the unprecedented global refugee crisis and ensuring that Syria remains the largest humanitarian catastrophe in the world.
The Syrian situation, including the use of barrel bombs, should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and all perpetrators should be held accountable, regardless of position or affiliation. Regrettably, a previous draft resolution on ICC referral was vetoed by Russia and China at the UN Security Council during May 2014.
The UN Security Council has failed to protect the Syrian people. As we approach the 70th anniversary of the UN, we therefore call on all UN member states to support the initiatives of France and Mexico, and the ACT group, regarding restraining the veto in mass atrocity situations.
And to our friend from the White Helmets and other Syrian friends, as a member of civil society I say: We salute your bravery. We stand with you.
We will not stop exposing atrocities in Syria. We will not stop pushing for the UN Security Council to act and for accountability at the ICC.
Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5203
New York, NY 10016-4309, USA