Posts Tagged ‘syrian observatory on human rights’

REPRISE: The Olympic Games, and the Battle for Aleppo, Begin (July 28, 2012); Geneva II and the urgency of a ceasefire NOW

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Update

Approximately 700 people killed in 9 days of intense clashes and executions between the ISIS forces against islamist and rebel battalions

697 people have been killed between Friday 3/1/2014, when the clashes began, and midnight of Saturday 11/1/2014. The victims include 100 civilians, 21 were executed by the ISIS fighters in the children hospital in Qadi Askar neighbourhood of Aleppo and 1 executed by an anfamous rebel battalion in the Meyser neighbourhood, the rest were killed in the crossfire during the clashes.

351 combatants from the islamist and non-islamist rebel battalions, killed during the clashes, car bombs, and attacks on vehicles in the provinces of Aleppo, Raqqah, Hama, Homs and Idlib. 53 of them were executed by ISIS forces, 21 of them in the children’s hospital of Aleppo.

246 ISIS fighters were also amongst those killed. 56 of them, as well as members of Jund al-Aqsa, were summarily executed by rebels in the Jabal al-Zawiya area of Reef Idlib, as confirmed by medical and local sources, while the others were killed by clashes.

Worryingly the fate of hundreds of detainees taken months and weeks ago by the ISIS are still unknown. Also unknown is the fate of hundreds of ISIS captives.

We again call on the International Organisations and Community to not suffice with press statements, they must also work to end the conflict in Syria that is causing daily war crimes to be committed. A ceasefire is needed to stop the Syrian regime, which is indiscriminately using all forms of weaponry in heavily populated areas, and to stop those that are committing war crimes under the guise of assisting the Syrian people.

–Syrian Observatory on Human Rights, January 12, 2012.

As the Geneva II Peace Conference scheduled to open on January 22, 2014 approaches, there is only one subject which should be on the table for discussion: establishment, implementation and verification of compliance with a ceasefire throughout all of Syria.

To discuss final arrangement provisions while a bloody civil war rages uncontrolled, imagining more “castles in the sky” as Kofi Annan did throughout his mediation effort, would be futile, like spitting into the wind–again.

70,000 people have died in Syria since the article below was first published. An estimated 130,000 have now died in Syria since demonstrations began in 2011.

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First published July 28, 2012

The Olympic Games, and the Battle for Aleppo, Begin—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #70

The Opening of the XXX Olympic Games

It was a poignant moment, as world leaders gathered in London last night (July 27) for the opening of the XXX Olympic Games, with the performance of an extraordinary spectacle, in which at one point five Olympic rings appeared suspended in the heavens over the Olympic Stadium. Over a billion people were said to have watched the opening ceremonies on television.

Here, in the very heart of the democratic civilizations of Europe, the Olympic ideal shone brightly.

In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were preceded by a “Sacred Truce” among the warring city-states, in which athletes were guaranteed safe passage to and from the games, and all fighting was to be halted for a period of one month. This period was eventually extended to allow the athletes and visitors to return home.

The games were held every four years from 776 BC to 393 AD, when they were abolished by the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I. The ancient Olympic Games lasted for 1170 years. The Modern Olympic Games were initiated in 1896, and have been held every four years or more often since then except for 1916, 1940 and 1944.

–“Brief History of the Olympic Games,” NOSTOS (Hellenic Information Society, UK).

Importantly, the Olympic Games today stand as a symbol for humanity’s goal of one day achieving universal peace. The alternative, it seems, is either the goal of endless war, or the resignation that goes with the sense of helplessness we feel when we reject the goal of peace.

The Battle for Aleppo, and the Response of the World

Meanwhile, in Aleppo in Syria, a country where the international community and the Security Council have been unable to reach agreement to act effectively to halt the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the portents of death and destruction were all too palpable yesterday and today, as the regime’s troops, tanks, artillery, helicopters and war planes began a concerted assault on the lightly armed rebels of the Syrian Liberation Army, in what a pro-Assad Damascus newspaper termed “the Mother of all Battles”.

Today, on Saturday, July 28, the battle was joined in earnest.

For news of recent developments on the ground in Syria, see

Luke Harding (in Anadan, on the Aleppo front line), “Syrian rebels near Aleppo: ‘We are besieging Assad’s army'; Regime forces have been pulverising rebel-held districts using artillery and helicopter gunships. But the rebels are upbeat,” The Guardian, July 28, 2012 (11:35 EDT).

Damien McElroy (in Aleppo), “Badly armed rebels face tanks as Syria’s mother of all battles begins,” The Telegraph, July 28, 2012 (6:57PM BST).

Álvaro de Cózar (Special Correspondent in Marea), “El Ejército sirio avanza para tomar Alepo; Las tropas de El Asad atacan con bombas y tanques los barrios en manos rebeldes; Las líneas de teléfono y el suministro de energía han sido cortados, El País, 28 Julio 2012 (23:45 CET).

Kareem Fahim and Ellen Barry, “Syrian Military Intensifies Assault on Rebels in Aleppo,” New York Times, July 28, 2012

***
Unfortunately, Americans accessing the Internet do not find it easy to gain a sense of what is actually taking place on the ground, due to “The Filter Bubble” which prevents most U.S. observers on the Internet from seeing the search results for newspapers outside of their own country (including, e.g., British and other newspapers which have correspondents on the ground in Syria).  To get around The Filter Bubble, see the directions in the bottom right-hand column on the right on our Home Page, or go here.

Thus, as the world turns its attention to the joyful spectacle of athletes from countries throughout the world competing on the basis of individual merit, as humanity comes together for its quadrennial celebration of the richness and diversity of the human family, the people in Aleppo and in Syria are left to face the absolute terror and barbarism of the Bashar al-Assad regime, alone.

Russia and China, along with the Syrian regime, are clearly to blame for this state of affairs, and populations who follow international affairs throughout the world are aware of the role they have have played in thwarting effective U.N. Security Council action. Memories of how they have backed the murderous regime of al-Assad are likely to be long indeed in the Middle East, and also in the democracies of the world.

The United States and other Western countries warn of an impending massacre in Aleppo, as if anyone but they themselves could save the day.

It is a new role for Americans: Eyewitness News reporters without an inkling of any sense of moral responsibility that might lead them to act. In this role, they are following the lead of their president.

The Americans, the Europeans, top U.N. officials and others loudly deplore the lamentable state of affairs in Syria in general, and the unfolding of the “mother of all battles” in Aleppo, in particular.

Leaderless, they stand helpless and paralyzed before the terror and barbarism of al-Assad.

They provide countless declarations of moral outrage, and call for the nations of the world to increase their “pressure” on the al-Assad regime.

The “pressure” of which they speak is a “pressure” of words, of plaintive moral appeals directed to war criminals whose moral depravity is beyond dispute. Or perhaps the “pressure” may even consist of voluntary economic sanctions, imposed by different countries outside the framework of the U.N. Security Council, whose impact is uncertain and in any event will take much time.

Neither words nor economic sanctions, however, will stop al-Assad’s armies.

These leaders are at once appalled by the terror, the barbarism, the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity before their very eyes, and caught in their own moral cowardice, impotent, helpless, with verbal reproaches the only weapons they have the courage to wield. Paralyzed by their own cowardice, they will not act—not effectively, not in time to save the thousands of additional deaths that the grinding gears of war portend to claim, and of which they so earnestly warn.

Enough with Words!

These leaders can all do the world one big favor:  Stop denouncing al-Assad’s atrocities, at least until they are willing to do something really effective to bring them to a halt.

With their moral energies thus freed, they can pay close attention to the facts on the ground, to what is actually happening to thousands of human beings in the maw of war, and then they can seek quiet solace in their churches, their synagogues, their mosques, and the other spiritual refuges in which they must, as individual human beings, come to terms with what they have seen, and what they have not done.

Enough with words!

Enough with the self-absolving declarations these leaders offer to the world, and to themselves, so they can sleep at night, knowing they were present at Srebrenice, present at Auschwitz, present in Rwanda, over a very long period of time, and did nothing.

President Theodore Roosevelt, Recipient of the 1907 Nobel Peace Prize, on Words and Deeds

As for President Obama, who reportedly likes to think of himself as emulating the great American presidents, the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, recipient of the 1907 Nobel Peace Prize, come to mind. Roosevelt declared:

“International Peace”

We must ever bear in mind that the great end in view is righteousness, justice as between man and man, nation and nation, the chance to lead our lives on a somewhat higher level, with a broader spirit of brotherly goodwill one for another. Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaid of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy. We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong. No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality.

Moreover, and above all, let us remember that words count only when they give expression to deeds, or are to be translated into them (emphasis added). The leaders of the Red Terror2 prattled of peace while they steeped their hands in the blood of the innocent; and many a tyrant has called it peace when he has scourged honest protest into silence. Our words must be judged by our deeds; and in striving for a lofty ideal we must use practical methods; and if we cannot attain all at one leap, we must advance towards it step by step, reasonably content so long as we do actually make some progress in the right direction.

[Footnote] 2. The “Terror” is a term characterizing the conduct of power in revolutionary France by the second committee of Public Safety (September, 1793-July, 1794), sometimes identified as the “Red Terror” to distinguish it from the short-lived “White Terror”, which was an effort by the Royalists in 1795 to destroy the Revolution.

–Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, delivered May 5, 1910.

President Obama and the other leaders of the world would do well to take these words to heart, today, and every day hereafter until they find the courage to take effective action to halt the barbarism and the terror in Syria.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com
www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

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Putin’s victory: Another Security Council “presidential statement”, and ferocious attacks on the ground—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #23 (April 7)

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

The 6-point Kofi Annan peace plan contained in the March 21, 2012 Security Council “Presidential Statement” is fatally flawed.

The plan by its design meets Russian demands to play for time and to prevent other states from taking actions on the ground that might actually bring the killing to a halt. This is exactly what has occurred since the plan was first announced.

It provides a smokescreen for cowardly inaction by the West and the Arab states and the international community in the face of the wanton and ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a wide scale.

It has led–at least until now–to the victory of Vladimir Putin, Russia, Iran, and China over the West, the Arab countries, Turkey, and other civilized countries. This victory represents the triumph of the darkest elements of represssion and 20th century history over the 21st century values of the U.N. Charter, the human rights movement, and the struggle for transitions to democracy throughout the world. The impact of this defeat, if not reversed, will be felt in every country on the planet where citizens are struggling to achieve respect for fundamental human rights and a democratic future.

Latest News Reports and Opinion

The Sydney Morning Post reports on the death toll in Syria on Saturday,

More than 100 people have been reported killed across Syria in a single day, 74 of them civilians, as regime forces pressed a protest crackdown three days ahead of a deadline to cease fire and pull back.

At least 40 civilians died ‘‘in bombardment and shooting on the town of Latamna,’’ in Hama province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based monitoring group said civilians were killed as well in Tibet al-Imam, also in Hama, and another 16 in the neighbouring province of Homs, where Rastan town was bombed, in Idlib to the northwest, and Aleppo in north Syria.

In escalating clashes, 16 rebels and 17 members of the security forces were also killed nationwide, it said, adding 13 bodies were found in Deir Balaa district of Homs and 10 extracted from rubble in Hreitan, Aleppo province.

The Observatory said the deaths came after President Bashar al-Assad’s forces launched an overnight assault on Latamna and clashed with members of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

–Sydney Morning Post, “Syria violence escalates ahead of deadline,” April 8, 2012.

El País reports that the bodies of 13 persons whose hands had been tied and who had allegedly been executed were found in Homs on Saturday. A video was provided by activists. Over 100 people were killed on Saturday, the paper reports.

–Ana Carbajosa (Jerusalén), “El régimen sirio tiñe de sangre el país a tres días de la tregua; La represión gubernamental deja casi un centenar de muertos según los rebeldes; Annan asegura que Siria aplicará el alto el fuego a partir del 10 de abril, El País, 7 abril 2012 (16:53 CET).

Defectors from the Syrian army have been interviewed by McClatchy Newspapers, in Turkey, providing eyewitness accounts of orders and actions to kill civilians, and of the execution of soldiers who refused to execute those orders. The story also details the commission of war crimes where in one case some 30 civilians were lined up and shot.

One of the most detailed accounts came from a former soldier who identified himself as Master Sgt. Maxim Kawa, a pseudonym he adopted to protect his family, still in Syria.

Kawa, who said he was 26, said he was based in Homs with the Syrian special forces, an elite unit that was deployed repeatedly in the heartland of the uprising to suppress civilian protesters starting last May. Kawa said the unit’s mission was to protect and clear the way for one of Syria’s 16 security services to seize civilian resisters, but that his unit’s members also were ordered to execute civilians. This they did until something snapped, and top officers were sent in to give them a two-day “re-education” course.

Kawa said the unit mounted repeated assaults on civilian protesters in Baba Amr, a part of Homs that the army retook in February after 26 days of artillery bombardment, in the towns of Rastan, about 12 miles from Homs, and Tel Kalakh, on Syria’s border with Lebanon.

Kawa’s unit occupied Rastan for eight days last May, losing one soldier to an armed local. “Our officers told us that we must take revenge for our friends,” Kawa said. “They pushed us to kill civilians.”

He said his group of about 50 soldiers dragged 30 men out of their houses, tied their hands behind their backs and took them to the town’s main street.
“We put them against a wall and shot them,” he said.

–Roy Gutman, “In rare interviews, Syrian ex-soldiers talk of killing civilians,” McClatchy Newspapers, April 2, 2012.

For a gripping account of the Syrian army’s assault on and terror in Taftanaz, including a description of the rebel fighters’ actions and the battle for the town, see

Anand Gopal “Survivors tell of bloody aftermath to fight in Taftanaz, Syria,” McClatchy Newspapers, April 6, 2012.

Der Spiegel reports Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan as saying that he will await the ceasefire implementation by the Tuesday morning deadline, but that if it does not take place Turkey will take “measures”. These measures are understood to include the establishment of humanitarian protection zones inside Syria’s territory. Der Spiegel also reports on actions on the ground, including the deaths of 40 people when the Syrian army stormed the village of Latamneh in central Hama province. It also reports on activists’ accounts of attacks in Homs, and on the rebel-held neighborhoods of Rastan, Deir Baalabeh, and Kusair.

–“Erdogan droht Assad-Regime mit “Schritten; Türkischer Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Drohgebärde Richtung Damaskus; Ruhig will der türkische Premier Erdogan auf die bevorstehende Waffenruhe in Syrien warten. Sollte die Gewalt nach Verstreichen der Frist jedoch andauern, droht er dem Regime in Damaskus mit “Schritten”. Noch scheint kein Ende des Blutvergießens in Sicht: Allein am Samstag starben 100 Menschen,” Der Spiegel, 7 April 2012.

Le Figaro reports that at least 74 civilians were killed on Saturday, and a total of 120 persons, with a majority of the civilians being killed in bombardments of Latamna (Latamneh) in the region of Hama, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

–“Flambée de violence en Syrie à quelques jours de la trêve,” Le Figaro, 7 avril 2012 (mis à jour à 21:43 h).

U.N. Security Council Statement of April 5, 2012

On April 5, 2012, the U.N. Security Council issued a new “Presidential Statement” urging Syria to comply with the ceasefire provisions in Kofi Annan 6-point peace plan by Tuesday, April 10, 2012. The text (UN Doc. S/PRST/2012/10) follows:

Statement by the President of the Security Council

At the 6746th meeting of the Security Council, held on 5 April 2012, in connection with the Council’s consideration of the item entitled “The situation in the Middle East”, the President of the Council made the following statement on behalf of the Council:

“The Security Council recalls its Presidential Statements of 3 August 2011 and 21 March 2012 and its Press Statement of 1 March 2012.

“The Security Council reaffirms its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Syria, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter.

“The Security Council expresses its appreciation for the 2 April 2012 briefing of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan. The Security Council notes that the Syrian government committed on 25 March 2012 to implement the Envoy’s six-point proposal.

“The Security Council calls upon the Syrian government to implement urgently and visibly its commitments, as it agreed to do in its communication to the Envoy of 1 April, to (a) cease troop movements towards population centres, (b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centres, and (c) begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres, and to fulfil these in their entirety by no later than 10 April 2012.

“The Security Council calls upon all parties, including the opposition, to cease armed violence in all its forms within 48 hours of the implementation in their entirety by the Syrian government of measures (a), (b), (c) above. The Security Council further calls upon the opposition to engage with the Envoy in this regard.

“The Security Council underscores the importance of an effective and credible United Nations supervision mechanism in Syria to monitor a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties and relevant aspects of the Envoy’s six-point proposal. The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to provide proposals for such a mechanism as soon as appropriate, after consultations with the government of Syria. The Security Council stands ready to consider these proposals and to authorise an effective and impartial supervision mechanism upon implementation of a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties.

“The Security Council underscores the central importance of a peaceful political settlement to the Syrian crisis and reiterates its call for the urgent, comprehensive, and immediate implementation of all aspects of the Envoy’s six-point proposal. The Security Council reiterates its full support for the Envoy’s six-point proposal aimed at bringing an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations, securing humanitarian access and facilitating a Syrian-led political transition leading to a democratic, plural political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations, ethnicities or beliefs,
including through commencing a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition.

“The Security Council reiterates its call for the Syrian authorities to allow immediate, full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance, in accordance with international law and guiding principles of humanitarian assistance. The Security Council calls upon all parties in Syria, in particular the Syrian authorities, to cooperate fully with the United Nations and relevant humanitarian organizations to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance. To this end, the Security Council calls on all parties to immediately implement a daily two hour humanitarian pause as called for in the Envoy’s six-point proposal.

“The Security Council requests the Envoy to update the Council on the cessation of violence in accordance with the above timeline, and progress towards implementation of his six-point proposal in its entirety. In the light of these reports, the Security Council will consider further steps as appropriate.”

Analysis

U.N. Security Council “Presidential Statements” have no legal force. In the case of Syria, they seem to be largely useless exercises in rhetoric. Their usefullness is limited to the role they can play in developing a consensus among the permanent members of the Security Council which might then be converted into legally binding action by the Security Council through adoption of a resolution.

“Presidential statements” can also be used by Russia (and China) to create the illusion of movement and agreement where in fact none exists. The March 21 statement has had this effect. This latest statement on April 5 may serve the Russian’s interests by gaining more time for al-Assad to wipe out the opposition. Anyone who has any illusions about Russia being moved by humanitarian considerations in Syria has not been following developments in that country on the ground for the last six months.

To recapitulate:

The 6-point Kofi Annan peace plan contained in the March 21, 2012 Security Council “Presidential Statement” it is fatally flawed.

The plan by its design meets Russian demands to play for time and to prevent other states from taking actions on the ground that might actually bring the killing to a halt. This is exactly what has occurred since the plan was first announced.

It provides a smokescreen for cowardly inaction by the West and the Arab states and the international community in the face of the wanton and ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a wide scale.

It has led–at least until now–to the victory of Vladimir Putin, Russia, Iran, and China over the West, the Arab countries, Turkey, and other civilized countries in the world. This victory represents the triumph of the darkest elements of represssion and 20th century history over the 21st century values of the U.N. Charter, the human rights movement, and the struggle for transitions to democracy throughout the world. The impact of this defeat, if not reversed, will be felt in every country on the planet where citizens are struggling to achieve respect for fundamental human rights and a democratic future.

The idea that a “Syrian-led” process of political negotiation could lead to a peaceful transition in Syria has become ludicrous, in view of developments on the ground.

Any peace process must be led by the international community–not “Syrian led” which in practice puts all the cards in al-Assad’s hands.

Bashar al-Assad, the author of countless war crimes and crimes against humanity, must go.

The nations of the world need to intervene to stop the killing, first, and then to organize an orderly transition to follow al-Assad’s departure. The alternatives have been laid out very cogently by Senator McCain in his speech on the floor of the Senate on March 5, 2012.

President Obama, if he cannot lead, needs to get out of the way. He is standing squarely on the wrong side of history.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com
www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv