Syrian forces carry out revenge attacks and targeted reprisals against those meeting with U.N. observers—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #30 (April 25)

Latest News and Opinion

Chilling details of reprisals by Syrian forces against those who spoke to U.N. observers are provided by Ulrike Putz, reporting for Der Spiegel from Beirut. Putz describes the targeted attacks in a neighborhood of Hama that were directed against those who had spoken with the U.N. observers or been in the neighborhood. Between 28 and 50 people were killed in Hama in the revenge attack against them following the departure of the U.N. observers.

See Ulrike Putz, “Uno-Beobachter-Mission in Syrien: Wer redet, der stirbt; Uno-Beobachter in Homs: “Sie haben den Tod mit sich gebracht”; Die syrische Bevölkerung zahlt offenbar einen hohen Preis für die Anwesenheit der Uno-Blauhelme. Das Assad-Regime attackiert von den Beobachtern besuchte Stadtteile mit gezielten Angriffen. Niemand soll es anscheinend wagen, mit den ausländischen Besuchern zu reden.”(“Whoever speaks, dies,”) Der Spiegel, 25 Abril 2012.

Putz writes,

“Die Blauhelme waren kaum weg, da fielen die Bomben: “Nachdem die Beobachter abgefahren waren, hat die Armee die Gegend rund um die Alamain- und Mazarib-Straße gestürmt”, berichtet Abu al-Huda al-Hamwi von dem, was am Montag in seiner Heimatstadt Hama im Norden Syriens geschah. “Der Angriff begann mit einem Beschuss, der die Leute mitten auf der Straße überraschte. Die Leichen lagen über Stunden herum”, sagte das Mitglied des lokalen Revolutionskomitees Später sollen Soldaten Menschen aus ihren Häusern geholt und erschossen haben. Auch Gebäude seien in Brand gesteckt worden.

“Als die Beobachtertruppe der Uno sich einen Tag zuvor mehrere Stunden in der für ihre antiken Wasserschöpfräder bekannten Stadt aufhielt, war es ruhig geblieben. Die Bürger in der Oppositionshochburg demonstrierten im Beisein der Blauhelme gegen das Regime Baschar al-Assads, einige Mutige sprachen sogar mit den Emissären der Vereinten Nationen. Die Quittung gab es prompt: “Das Regime wollte die Menschen dafür bestrafen, dass sie eine Botschaft an die internationalen Beobachter gesandt haben”, sagt Aktivist Hamwi. Die Angaben, wie viele Menschen durch den Rachefeldzug umkamen, schwanken zwischen 28 und 50.”

Analysis and Observations

Security Council Resolution 2043 provides:

“The Security Council,

“8. Calls upon the Syrian government to ensure the effective operation of UNSMIS by: …allowing it to freely and privately communicate with individuals throughout Syria without retaliation against any person as a result of interaction with UNSMIS;…”

Like everything else in Kofi Annan’s 6-point peace plan, this provision is a dead letter.

See also

Neil MacFarquhar, “U.N. Observers Prove Little Deterrent to Syrian Attacks,” New York Times, April 23, 2012.

Neil MacFarquhar and Hwaida Saad, “Violence in Syria’s Capital Even With a Cease-Fire,” New York Times, April 25, 2012.

Editorial Board (Editorial), “Where U.N. monitors go in Syria, killings follow,” Washington Post, April 25, 2012.

The Post editorial underlines the fatuous nature of the approach of the U.S. and the Security Council toward dealing with the ongoing atrocities in Syria. Unfortunately, we seem to have a U.S. administration that cannot tell the difference between words and actions. As the Editorial poignantly noted,

It’s bad enough that the Obama administration refuses to learn the lessons of previous failures. More galling is its claim that it has made the prevention of atrocities a priority — as Mr. Obama did Monday in announcing the creation of an “atrocities prevention board.” “We see the Syrian people subjected to unspeakable violence, simply for demanding their universal rights,” he said. “And we have to do everything we can.”

Is sending unarmed monitors to besieged cities and shrugging when the people they visit are murdered everything the United States can do? Even in an election year, the answer has to be no.

We need an atrocities prevention program under military command, now, in real time, with our armed forces converging by land, air and sea on Syria, where this killing will be stopped. Not an advisory board focused on words. We need to focus on deeds.

One has to wonder what kind of information about what is going on in Syria on the ground U.S. offifcials are reading every day.

It is perhaps worth noting that while the Washington Post Editorial Board has demonstrated keen judgment in several key editorials, the reporting of events on the ground in Syria by the Post’s reporters has on the whole been intermittent and undistinguished. This may help explain why officials in Washington don’t seem to have any sense of what is going on in Syria on the ground.

Reading and listening to the news from Syria today, the Observer was filled with a sense of deep foreboding with respect to the future role and efficacy of the United Nations system for maintaining international peace and security. The fault lies not in the institutional architecture which was brilliantly established in the U.N. Charter in 1945. It lies in ourselves, in our current leaders.

The risk of failure is due to a lack of clarity of vision, a lack of clarity of moral purpose when it comes to issues of peace and war, and above all a lack of guts and determination to act to defend the very moral values and legal principles upon which our civilization is founded.

Much more is at stake in Syria than Syria itself.

If we don’t care about the individuals who are being killed in Syria when we could stop it, if we don’t care about stopping war crimes and crimes against humanity when every moral teaching and every bit of our own experience tells us they must be stopped, then who will care for us? Who will care for us when we face adversity? Who will join our coalitions? Who will make common cause with us in defense of our values and our civilization?

The Trenchant Observer

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The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.