The battle of powers within the United Nations pernicious for the Syrian people

By Carmen PereiraMEDEA Institute

The voting system of the United Nations, once again turned out into a disappointment for the advancement of justice and Human Rights in the Middle East. On June 22nd, Russia and China voted against the resolution submitted by France during a meeting at the Security Council of the UN. This impartial resolution aims an intervention by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate war crimes, comited by which have been taking place in Syria since 2011.[1][2] Although the Russia’s and China’s veto, the fourth already since the beginning of the war, are not surprising, it does raises serious doubts about the sovereignty and the functioning of the United Nations.



© AFP Photo/Don Emmert. Russia uses his right to veto during the UN security council in order to protect the regime of Bachar el-Assad.

Because of the fact that Syria does not recognize the ICC, a unanimous decision of the 15 members of the UN-security council is required to enable the investigations of war crimes in Syria. However, the five permanent members of the council-France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and China-have a right to veto,  allowing the to impede any decision that runs counter to their interests. We could ask ourselves whether this veto (which dates back to WOII), given the impact it may have on the respect of human rights, is still legitimate. Are the geopolitical and economic interests of those 5 superpowers more important than international justice?

A « publicity stunt for the United Nations »- that is how Russia considered the resolution proposed by France. Nevertheless it is important to keep in mind that Russia has always had very closes ties with Syria if it be on economic, historical or political grounds. Since the Cold War, Russia was one of the only country to agree to support Syria militarily, providing it with weapons since 1956. One year later, the links between Damascus and Moscow have been reaffirmed by economic cooperation aimed at the development of industries, infrastructure (the USSR has, in particular, funded the construction of the railway from Aleppo to Latakia) and irrigation in Syria. The formation of the United Arab Republic (in 1958-1961) bringing together Egypt and Syria, has further strengthened their relations with the USSR.[3] Moreover is the only military base Russia possesses in the Mediterranean region located in Tartus, Syria

Russian President Putin speaks with Syrian counterpart al-Assad in Moscow.

©Reuters. Bachar El-Assad and Poetin during a state visit in Moscow in 2005.

Within the United Nations, more than forty countries have questioned the right of veto. However reforms seem unlikely, given the need for approval of the five permanent members. The veto leaves the Syrian people without hope for international justice during a war that already has claimed the lives of more than 130,000 people. [4] A real humanitarian tragedy, and the feeling that the international political scene still retains a bitter taste of Cold War …

[1] http://www.rfi.fr/moyen-orient/20140522-chine-russie-le-double-veto-protege-syrie-tchourkine-onu-cpi-justice-internati/

[2] http://www.deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws/buitenland/1.1975883

[3] http://www.lesclesdumoyenorient.com/Syrie-et-Russie-historique-des.html

[4]  http://www.lalibre.be/dernieres-depeches/afp/la-guerre-en-syrie-victimes-et-degats-en-chiffres-52d6cc9d3570ba3e183ab790