Congress is debating whether to authorize the President to use force in response to allegations that Syria used chemical weapons against opponents of the government.
Although Amnesty International has not taken – and is not likely to take – a position on the appropriateness of armed intervention, we believe the debate in Congress is inadequate, as it does not address many of the pressing issues of the Syrian crisis.
Accordingly, we have identified several steps that should be taken in response to this crisis, no matter where one lands, for or against, the use of force. They are as follows:
- Reiterate call for arms embargo on the Syrian government and call on all nations to apply the standards of the Arms Trade Treaty to any possible shipment of arms to opposition groups – exports likely to be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights abuses should not be authorized
- U.N. Security Council (UNSC) should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court for action – as Amnesty has documented war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by many parties to the conflict
- Mobilize the international community to address the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people of which more than 2 million are refugees and 4.25 million internally displaced. Less than 40 percent of the $4 billion international appeal for relief supplies/aid has been pledged. Special care should be taken to address the needs of the most vulnerable – women and children
- Call on all parties to the Syrian conflict to afford the U.N. Commission of Inquiry unfettered access to investigate war crimes and other human rights abuses
- In connection to the humanitarian relief efforts, secure “unfettered access” for NGOs and relief agencies to the affected population, both inside and outside Syria
- Freeze Assad’s assets – call on UNSC to overcome Russian and Chinese objections, and in any case, call on nations to halt arms shipments
In the event that military action is taken against Syria, Amnesty International will of course evaluate that action and any response to it in terms of compliance with International Humanitarian Law and the rules of war, such as the care taken to protect civilians, use of cluster munitions, use of human shields, etc.