UN General Assembly denounces Syrian crackdown
Published Friday, August 3, 2012 6:42AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 3, 2012 6:59PM EDT
The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly denounced the Syrian regime Friday in an effort to push the Security Council to take steps to end the bloody uprising in the country.
Before the vote, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told the Assembly that violence is mounting in the city of Aleppo. He drew comparisons between the failure to act in Syria with the international community's failure to protect people from past genocide in Srebrenica and Rwanda.
"The acts of brutality that are being reported may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes," Ban said of the Aleppo fighting. "Such acts must be investigated and the perpetrators held to account."
Both rebels and government forces have accused each other of executing prisoners in Aleppo.
According to activists, more than 19,000 people have been killed in the Syrian fighting. The UN says roughly 1.5 million people are displaced within the country.
The vote comes after the more powerful Security Council was deadlocked by Russian and Chinese vetoes on resolutions that would open the door to sanctions on Syria.
The revised resolution takes a swipe at Russia and China by "deploring the Security Council failure" to act.
Frustrated with lack of action, former UN chief Kofi Annan resigned Thursday as the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria after his peace proposals failed.
The resolution passed Friday backs Annan's "demand that the first step in the cessation of violence has to be made by the Syrian authorities” and calls for the regime's chemical and biological weapons to be locked down.
It also denounced attacks on children as young as 9 by the Syrian government, military intelligence services and militias, as well as "killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, and use as human shields."
The motion passed with 133 votes in favor, 12 against and 31 abstentions.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari denounced the vote as "a piece of theatre."
General Assembly resolutions do carry moral influence, but they cannot be enforced.
The original draft calling for other nations to place sanctions on Syria and for Assad to resign was opposed by Russia and China, as well as by Syria, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Belarus, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Venezuela.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Thursday said he could not support the General Assembly's "extremely unbalanced and one-sided resolution" and accused countries pushing the resolution of providing weapons to armed opposition groups.
Christian Leuprecht, associate professor of the department of political science at Royal Military College, said the symbolic vote is a way of persuading Russia and China to help stop the violence in Syria.
“The bulk of the rest of the world is on side with what the Security Council has been trying to do,” Leuprecht said on CTV News Channel Friday.
“It’s about really trying to isolate Russia and China and really try to paint them into a corner, making them think twice about the blood that everyone is going to have on their hands at the end of this and whether they are willing to live with this.”
Khalid Saleh, Turkey-based spokesperson for the Syrian National Council (SNC), told The Associated Press that he questioned the sincerity of the international community to help the Syrian people.
"I am truly wondering if the international community has the stomach or the willingness to actually help the Syrian people. We've heard tremendous amount of talk but when we look at actions the reality on the ground does not support all the big words that we've heard," he said.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council on Thursday that UN military observers in Aleppo were seeing "a considerable buildup of military means, where we have reason to believe that the main battle is about to start."
The fighting in Aleppo has focused on the Salaheddine district, seen as a gateway to the city for the Syrian army.
Rebels poured into Aleppo in July after being largely driven from the capital Damascus, where they had launched an offensive that coincided with a bomb blast that killed four top security officials. The fighting in the two main cities has intensified the conflict over the past three weeks.
With files from The Associated Press