How Many Different Ways Can the World Fail the Syrian People?

The U.N. now numbers the total of displaced persons in Syria at 6.5 million. 2.8 million  more have have fled the country and are now in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere, overwhelming authorities in those countries (Photo Credit: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images).

The U.N. now numbers the total of displaced persons in Syria at 6.5 million. 2.8 million more have have fled the country and are now in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere, overwhelming authorities in those countries (Photo Credit: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images).

How many different times can Russia and China stand against justice for human rights abuses in Syria?

Yesterday, Russia and China vetoed a French resolution before the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In vetoing the resolution, Russia and China sent the message that Syria, once again, remains open for human rights abuses with impunity.

While Amnesty International had several concerns with the resolution, including exclusionary clauses that would be contrary to international law, we supported the referral as the most concrete action yet taken by the Security Council to uphold human rights in Syria.

It took nearly three years for the first U.N. resolution on Syria to call for immediate humanitarian access and an end to human rights abuses. Passed in February 2014, the terms of that resolution are still being openly flouted.

Thus, the international community’s failure to take meaningful action on Syria continues. The result? The U.N. now numbers the total of displaced persons in Syria at 6.5 million, many living in horrid conditions, surviving off of roots and berries. Conditions for the further 2.8 million who have fled Syria and are now in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere are overwhelming authorities in those countries. The numbers are staggering.

Russia’s and China’s vetoes of the ICC referral don’t absolve the rest of the world from the continuing inaction, not when so many countries are behind on their financial pledges to support the more than 2 million refugees. The United States has fulfilled its pledge, but has made a paltry effort to help resettle refugees. Three years after the conflict began, the burden of the humanitarian crisis still rests mainly and unfairly on the neighboring countries.

Yesterday’s vote was more than symbolism. An ICC referral is essential to ensure justice for victims. It would have sent an unequivocal message to all sides to the conflict that war crimes and crimes against humanity will be genuinely investigated and prosecuted.

In vetoing the resolution yesterday, Russia and China sent a very different message: Syria, once again, remains open for human rights abuses with impunity.

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