Two years have passed, and Syria is still embroiled in the catastrophic civil war that started in 2011. It is no surprise to hear Lakhdar Brahimi’s words against this background: that this year could witness the loss of 100,000 more lives in Syria.
Following closely at the heels of a massacre near a University, this statement just reiterates how helpless the world is about the situation. The massacre itself took place after air strikes on refugee camps and people queuing up for food. There was also an incident of shelling of a group of school children near Damascus – somewhere around the time when similar events took place in Connecticut and China.
There is no doubt that in every conflict – be it internal or international, the ones that suffer most are civilians. The reasons are simple: there isn’t as much respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) as there is for political interests; this in turn stems from the second reason – where the enforcement of IHL is difficult in a state of war.
In Syria’s case, Russia and China have vetoed Security Council resolutions that sought to examine intervention as a possible course of action, sought to impose sanctions and even beat efforts that sought to bring the situation in Syria to International Criminal Court. Instead of taking steps to condemn the crime, Russia and China have even sold weapons to the Syrian government. Their actions have been criticised, of course. For their part, the Russians argue that they do not intend to tear up contracts made before the outbreak of violence in Syria.
What is happening in Syria is nothing short of a catastrophe. War crimes thrive, unimpeded. There are globally poised enablers that are continuously letting this happen. IHL for the most part is rendered toothless simply because it cannot be enforced on ground. The International Criminal Court cannot pursue suspects without state co-operation or Security Council resolutions. Any obstruction from the governments themselves and other global powers can throw this into serious disarray.