The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), a non-governmental organization having consultative status with the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), is dedicated to international law, particularly the peaceful resolution of disputes as set forth in the UN Charter and basic human rights instruments.
IADL has been taking note of the situation in Syria for some time. In March of 2012, IADL called for an immediate cease fire in Syria to allow for peaceful resolution of the conflict consistent with the UN Charter.
At that time IADL said: “The IADL condemns in the strongest possible terms these threats to international peace and security which are prohibited by the UN Charter and the doctrine of jus cogens.”
IADL is alarmed by the events occurring in Syria. Media reports show mounting levels of violence by both government forces and defected army units and other armed opposition groups. The violence is taking a heavy toll, leaving thousands of people dead, wounded and traumatized, with particularly deleterious effects on women, children and civilians. The violence must be stopped immediately, by resort to peaceful, diplomatic means.
IADL strongly condemns the killing of civilians under any circumstances. The targeting of civilians violates the Geneva Conventions and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Those who violate these laws must be held accountable.
The UN Charter mandates that all member states settle their international disputes by peaceful means, to maintain international peace, security and justice. Members must also refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state or in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. The Charter does not permit the use of military force under the pretext of humanitarian intervention.
Since March 2012, UN mediators have been undermined by the refusal of Western powers and others in the region to effectively require the parties to engage in peaceful resolution of this dispute. Outside forces apparently seek regime change in Syria by arming the “opposition” and encouraging further military action. This has resulted in massive loss of life.
IADL continues to condemn both the opposition tactic of hiding in highly populated areas which exposes civilian populations to collateral damage, and the intentional targeting of civilian areas by the Assad regime.
There appears to be a push for war with reports that the Assad regime is planning to use chemical weapons against his people. The Assad government has stressed repeatedly that if they had such weapons, they would not be used against the Syrian people. Moreover, while fighting in some areas of Syria is more intense than in others, the population is by no means segregated into supporters and opponents. The regime would be committing suicide by killing its own supporters. Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. Syria should state that it will fulfil its obligations under the Geneva Protocol and refrain from using chemical weapons even in the case of foreign intervention. IADL fears there is a plan by NATO and Turkey to provide a pretext for military intervention in Syria.
Raising the spectre of the use of chemical weapons is reminiscent of the Bush administration’s claims that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Now the USA has moved a major armada off the Syrian coast. There are reports that this armada includes the USS Eisenhower and the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, with a combined force of 10,000 US troops, 70 fighter-bombers and at least 17 warships, including three Iwo Jima amphibious craft, a guided missile cruiser and 10 destroyers and frigates. Four of these vessels are armed with Aegis missile interceptors.
Chapter VI of the UN Charter requires parties to a dispute likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security to “first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.”
Chapter VII only authorizes the Security Council to order forceful measures in order to maintain or restore international peace and security, not to restore domestic order within a state such as Syria. NATO’s military invasion of Libya sought to be justified by reference to the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine. But rather than pursuing an immediate ceasefire, as ordered by the Council, NATO took immediate military action instead and exposed the real purpose of the invasion to be regime change. Given that many Western powers have lined up to support the “opposition” in Syria, it is apparent that regime change would be a motive for intervention. This type of intervention in the internal affairs of another country is illegal aggression.
IADL categorically opposes any foreign intervention – including economic, political, and military interference – in the internal affairs of the Syrian people. IADL further calls for an immediate end to violence by all sides to the conflict, and a peaceful resolution of the dispute, in accordance with the UN Charter.
Issued: December 13, 2012