A letter from Syrian Civil society organization about cessation of all hostilities in Syria
His Excellency Mr. Mansour Al Otaibi, Permanent Representative of the State of Kuwait to the United Nations, President of the Security Council
His Excellency Mr. António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General
His Excellency Ambassador Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Sweden to the United Nations
His Royal Highness Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. The High Commissioner for Human Rights
His Excellency Mr. Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria
Your Excellencies and Your Highness, peace be upon you.
On the evening of Saturday February 24th, the Security Council issued Resolution 2401 calling for the cessation of all hostilities on all Syrian soil, particularly in Eastern Ghouta, and the delivery of humanitarian aid “without delay”.
Civilians in Eastern Ghouta waited for this decision with the hope of getting out of shelters and basements to secure the food they need or at least bury the victims, whose numbers have surpassed 300 over the past six days. However, the unanimous decision did not change anything for the people of Ghouta, despite the recommendations to implement it without delay due to the devastating humanitarian situation.
Excellencies and Your Highnesses:
Operative clause 12 of Security Council Resolution 2401(2018) requests that the implementation of resolution, and the compliance of the relevant parties in Syria are to be monitored. As we write this letter, Eastern Ghouta remains under attack. Since the early hours of Sunday February 25th there have been 78 airstrikes in which 27 civilians were killed. In addition, the Syrian regime, supported by its allied militias, have begun a ground invasion into Eastern Ghouta through three fronts. Finally, on the evening of February 25th, chlorine gas was used against civilians in the town of Shefoneyah injuring 19 people and killing one child as a result of exposure to the poison gas. All the above are in clear violation of Clauses One, Three, Five, Six, Seven and Ten of the resolution 2401.
Resolution 2401 in its permeable clauses also refers to the “on-going work on de-escalation areas to reduce violence as a step towards a comprehensive nation-wide ceasefire, emphasizing the need for all parties to respect their commitments to existing ceasefire agreements, and that humanitarian access must be granted as part of these efforts in accordance with international humanitarian law”. Given that Eastern Ghouta is supposedly one of these areas, the facts on the ground seem the furthest they could be from any reduction of violence.
This is not the first Security Council decision that the Assad regime and its allies the Russian Federation and the Republic of Iran have ignored, and it will not be the last – particularly after statements by the Iranian Chief of Staff that they are continuing the war – if there is no one taking firm punitive action upon the violations thereof The Security Council has issued a number of resolutions calling for the immediate lifting of the siege, the entry of humanitarian aid and a complete cessation of the indiscriminate bombardment of civilians, particularly resolutions number 2118, 2139, 2165 and 2254. This was even noticed by the resolution as it expressed outrage at the insufficient implementation of its resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015), 2268 (2016), 2332 (2016) and 2393 (2017). We echo that outrage.
Unfortunately, however, the facts on the ground have proven that the Security Council has become hostage to Russia which has committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity on Syrian soil. Russia has supported, aided and abetted the Syrian regime unreservedly with 11 vetoes – a regime that that has committed and continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people as documented by UN bodies such as the Commission of Inquiry.
Excellencies and Your Highnesses:
As the people and civil workers and organizations, many of us who are implementing partners of the United Nation working inside of besieged Eastern Ghouta who are facing daily bombardment, we demand the following:
1- An immediate cessation of hostilities in accordance with resolutions 2254, 2268 and 2401. It is important here to state that we clearly do not accept the truce announced by the Russian Federation neither as a replacement nor as an application of the resolution 2401.
2- A lifting of the siege and access for adequate humanitarian relief and medical supplies, including but not limited to medicine for chronic diseases, medicine and treatment for pregnant women and newborns, and vaccines for communicable diseases like smallpox, measles and the hepatitis virus.
3- Safe evacuation of critical cases requiring surgical intervention with guarantees of access through the ICRC and the UN agencices to hospitals in neighbouring countries or areas outside the control of the regime.
4- An end to the targeting of civilian infrastructure, medical and educational facilities, places of worship, food warehouses, power plants and water installations in accordance with international humanitarian law.
5- The organizing of a secure and regular flow of deliveries of medical supplies and food through an agreed upon crossing, provided that this crossing is under the supervision of the ICRC and the UN agencies.
6- We call upon all countries to support the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine, adopted by the United Nations in 2005, to stop the pattern of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the cities and towns of Eastern Ghouta. We also condemn any attempts to forcibly displace directed towards the people of Eastern Ghouta and we reject any ceasefire, truce or settlement agreement that includes any reference or excuse to a forced displacement of the Ghouta inhabitants out of their area. It should also be made clear, that under IHL, the priority is for aid to get in, not for people to leave. Even if there was no expressed demand made by the Syrian regime and its allies for people to leave, their conduct in targeting civilians and civilian objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, takes away any genuine choice as required by international law that civilians may have.
7- We call on the guarantor countries of the de-escalation zones to assume their responsibilities and we call for pressure to implement all relevant Security Council resolutions referred to in the preamble of Security Council Resolution 2401(2018).
8- We hold the United Nations and its Member States responsible for the crimes of targeting civilians in Eastern Ghouta and the tragic humanitarian situation as a result of its failure to take a decisive position to deliver relief and medical aid.
Finally, we remind everyone that Eastern Ghouta has never embraced any extremism and that its inhabitants are willing to do whatever they can to make the Al-Nusra fighters, as well as any other Al-Qaeda affiliated fighters, if any, leave our area. However, we note that Syrian regime and its allies ignore the fact that, even if such claims carry any weight, the resolution reaffirms that “Member States must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.”
We call upon the Security Council and the General Assembly member states to assume their responsibilities regarding the crimes committed in violation of international resolutions regarding Syria, as emphasised in operative clause three which “|calls upon all Member States to use their influence with the parties to ensure implementation of the cessation of hostilities, the fulfilment of existing commitments and to support efforts to create conditions for a durable and lasting ceasefire and stresses the need for relevant guarantees from those Member States”
Eastern Ghouta 27.02.2018
- Damascus provincial council
- Damascus Countryside Provincial Council
- Arbin Local council
- Harasta local council
- Douma Local council
- Maliha Local council
- Zamalka Local council
- Meidaa Local council
- Deir Elasafir Local council
- Hosh Eldawahreh Local council
- Local councils in eastern Ghouta southern sector
- Action pour la Syrie
- Al-Seeraj for development and health care
- Basma Relief
- Baytna Syria
- Citizenship league
- Damascene House
- Damascus Countryside Specialized hospital
- Darna organization
- Education & development organisation
- Fazaa for Development and Relief
- Free Syrian lawyer’s Aggregation
- Hope volunteering team
- IMAAR Reconstruction Organization
- INSAN for Psychosocial Support
- Joint Medical Chamber
- Local administration councils unit ( LACO)
- Local Development and Small-Projects Support (LDSPS)
- Mowatana for civil action
- Nabea El Hayat
- Nabni Organization
- National Syrian Women Association (NSWA)
- Ngo Syria
- Orphan’s documentation center
- Shaml CSOs coalition
- Sonbola Group for Education & Development
- Space of hope
- Sustainable International Medical Relief organization
- Syria civil defence (The White Helmets)
- Syria Orphans Association
- Syrian Civil Coalition
- Syrian employees in Tatweer Programme
- Syrian Network for Human Rights
- Syrian Organization for Human Rights and Legal Aid (Justice)
- Syrian Women Association (SWA)
- Takaful Alsham organization
- The Day after organization
- Violations documentation center (VDC)
- Women Now for Development
- Youth for Syria