The Financial Express

Ongoing Syrian crisis and the UN

| Updated: October 24, 2017 14:52:05

Ongoing Syrian crisis and the UN

The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 amongst multiple opposition factions -- basically anti-government groups and the government. Since 2014, a terrorist entity, named Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed a significant part of Syria. In September 2015, Russia deployed fighter jets, helicopters, surface-to-air missiles, and approximately two thousand military personnel to its military base near Latakia, and began an air campaign in Syria to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. So, the war with Russia's direct involvement in Syria officially started in September 2015 and till now it is going on.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has claimed that between the initiation of the intervention in September 2015 and February 2016, Russian air strikes have killed 1000 civilians, including 200 children, though the Russian government denies this. According to media reports, SOHR claims as many as 164 civilians were killed on the last bombing in Syria including 43 children. Another report (April, 2016) shows that at least 35 people, including eight children and five rescue workers got killed in the Syrian city of Aleppo and its outskirts in attacks carried out by the government forces and the rebels which is known as Aleppo bombing. Five civil defense workers - known as White Helmets - were also killed by the air strikes and a rocket attack on their centre in a separate incident in the rebel-held town of Atarib, on the outskirts of Aleppo.  It is clear from these that Russia and other multi-national attack on Syria is killing thousands of innocent people while targeting the Islamic State (IS). The burning question now: what is the role of UN concerning these matters?
According to Article 2(4) of the UN charter, all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. So, any kind of threat or use of force is clearly illegal and a violation of UN Charter. Though the Charter allows use of force in some strictly defined exceptional cases, none of those is relevant to the Syrian case.
According to Article 24 of the Charter, the Security Council is primarily responsible for the maintenance of International peace and security. Again chapter 7 of the UN Charter mentions Action with respect to Threats to Peace, Breaches of Peace and Acts of Aggression. Article 39 confers on the UN Security Council the responsibility to determine any threat to peace, breach of peace or aggression and to take measures to restore peace. If these fail, Article 42 empowers resorting to force to maintain or restore international peace and security.
So, from the above mentioned facts we can clearly understand that it is the responsibility of UN Security Council to maintain international peace and security which it has failed to do so far. In fact, the UN is also responsible for prevention of all kinds of aggressions and conflicts between member states but if we look at the current scenario we find no trace of  shouldering such responsibility.
 Finally, the Charter says that the UN is determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. If that is so, then it is high time for the UN to take effective steps concerning this matter otherwise the war in Syria with direct engagement of Russia and other external forces may bring irreparable loss to mankind, which has already started.

The writer is a final year LL.B. student at School of Law, BRAC University.

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