U.N. General Assembly adopts resolution condemning Syria by vote of 133-12 with 31 abstentions (vote tally and full text)—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #72 (August 3) Revised

Updated at 02:15 a.m. EDT, August 4, 2012

Today, August 3, 2012, the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution on Syria by a vote of 133-12 with 31 abstentions.


(1) “CNN Wire Staff, U.N. resolution on Syria slams regime, upbraids Security Council,” CNN, August 3, 2012 (updated 3:29 PM EDT).

CNN reports: “Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Syria were among those voting against the resolution. Algeria, India and Pakistan were among those abstaining.  Of Syria’s neighbors, Lebanon abstained and Iraq, Jordan and Turkey voted for the resolution.”

(2) United Nations General Assembly, “The Situation in Syria, Webcast,” August 3, 2012.

At 4:30 p.m. EDT, the webcast was providing live coverage of representatives’ statements explaining their votes. Archived video will soon be availabe for viewing.  A number ofthestatements, such as that by New Zealand, are quite eloquent.

(3)  “General Assembly, in Resolution, Demands All in Syria ‘Immediately and Visibly’ Commit to Ending Violence that Secretary-General Says Is Ripping Country Apart,” U.N. General Assembly, Press Release (U.N. Doc. GA/11266, August 3, 2012.

The Press Release contains a summary of the resolution and also quotes extensively from the interventions of over thirty representatives explaining their votes in support or opposition to the resolution.

Vote Tally: Breakdown of the Recorded Vote on the Resolution on the Situation Syria (U.N. Doc. /66/L.57).

The Press Release also provided the vote tally or breakdown of the vote:

The draft resolution on The Situation in Syria (document A/66/L.57) was adopted by a recorded vote of 133 in favour to 12 against, with 31 abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Zambia.

Against: Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.

Abstain: Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Burundi, Ecuador, Eritrea, Fiji, Ghana, Guyana, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Namibia, Nepal, Pakistan, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam.

Absent: Cambodia, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kiribati, Malawi, Philippines, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Yemen.

Full Text of the Resolution

The full text of the resolution adopted is found here. See United Nations General Assembly, Doc. A/66/L.57, 31 July 2012, reissued 3 August 2012.

The operative paragraphs of the resolution are reproduced below:

The General Assembly,

1. Condemns the increasing use by the Syrian authorities of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters, in population centres and the failure to withdraw its troops and the heavy weapons to their barracks, contrary to paragraph 2 of Security Council resolution 2042 (2012) and paragraph 2 of Council resolution 2043 (2012);

2. Strongly condemns the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities and pro-government militias, such as the use of force against civilians, massacres, arbitrary executions, the killing and persecution of protestors, human rights defenders and journalists, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, interference with access to medical treatment, torture, sexual violence, and ill-treatment, including against children, as well as any human rights abuses by armed opposition groups;

3. Condemns all violence, irrespective of where it comes from, including terrorist acts;

4. Demands that all parties immediately and visibly implement Security Council resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012) in order to achieve a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties, thereby creating an atmosphere conducive to a sustained cessation of violence and a Syrian-led political transition that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people;

5. Fully supports the demand of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States that the first step in the cessation of violence must be made by the Syrian authorities, and therefore calls upon the Syrian authorities to fulfil immediately their commitment to cease the use of heavy weapons and complete the withdrawal of their troops and heavy weapons to their barracks;

6. Calls upon the Syrian authorities to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against civilians, protect its population, fully comply with its obligations under applicable international law and fully implement all relevant Human Rights Council resolutions as well as General Assembly resolutions 66/176 and 66/253;

7. Demands that the Syrian authorities strictly observe their obligations under international law with respect to chemical and biological weapons, including Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) of 28 April 2004 and the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, signed at Geneva on 17 June 1925,[citation: (3) League of Nations, Treaty Series, vol. XCIV, No. 2138] and further demands that the Syrian authorities refrain from using, or transferring to non-State actors, any chemical or biological weapons, or any related material, and that the Syrian authorities meet their obligations to account for and to secure all chemical and biological weapons and any related material;


8. Stresses again the importance of ensuring accountability and the need to end impunity and hold to account those responsible for human rights violations, including those violations that may amount to crimes against humanity;

9. Encourages the Security Council to consider appropriate measures in this regard;

10. Demands that the Syrian authorities provide the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and individuals working on its behalf immediate entry and access to all areas of the Syrian Arab Republic, and demands also that all parties cooperate fully with the commission of inquiry in the performance of its mandate;

Humanitarian situation

11. Deplores the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the failure to ensure safe and timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, in violation of point 3 of the six-point plan, which, therefore, is contrary to Security Council resolutions;

12. Calls upon the Syrian authorities to immediately and fully implement the agreed humanitarian response plan, including by granting immediate, safe, full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance, in particular to civilian populations in need of evacuation, as well as safe, full and unimpeded access for affected civilians to humanitarian assistance and services, and also calls upon all parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular the Syrian authorities, to cooperate fully with the United Nations and relevant humanitarian organizations to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance;

13. Calls upon all parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular the Syrian authorities, to ensure the safety and security of personnel, installations, material, units and vehicles involved in humanitarian assistance in accordance with applicable international law;

14. Expresses grave concern at the increasing numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of the ongoing violence, and reiterates its appreciation of the significant efforts that have been made by the States bordering Syria to assist those who have fled across Syria’s borders as a consequence of the violence, and requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees to provide assistance as requested by Member States receiving these displaced persons;

15. Invites Member States to provide all support to the Syrian people, and encourages Member States to contribute to the United Nations humanitarian response efforts;

Political transition

16. Reiterates its call for an inclusive Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities or beliefs, including through the commencement of a serious political dialogue between the Syrian authorities and the whole spectrum of
the Syrian opposition;

17. Demands, in this regard, that all Syrian parties work with the Office of the Joint Special Envoy to implement rapidly the transition plan set forth in the final communiqué issued by the Action Group on 30 June, in a way that assures the safety of all in an atmosphere of stability and calm, notably through the establishment of a consensus transitional governing body, the review of the constitution on the basis of an inclusive national dialogue, and free and fair multiparty elections held in the framework of this new constitutional order;

18. Welcomes, in this regard, the Syrian Opposition Conference held under the auspices of the League of Arab States in Cairo on 3 July 2012, as part of the efforts of the League of Arab States to engage the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition, and encourages greater cohesion among the opposition;

19. Encourages Member States to provide active support to ensure implementation of the transition plan set forth in the final communiqué of the Action Group, and requests the Secretary-General to provide support and assistance to Syria, at the appropriate time, as it transitions;

20. Requests the Joint Special Envoy to focus his efforts towards a peaceful mechanism for the implementation of the transition to a pluralistic, democratic civil State with equality in citizenship and freedoms;


21. Requests the Secretary-General and all relevant United Nations bodies to provide support for the efforts of the Joint Special Envoy to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis;

22. Also requests the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the present resolution within fifteen days.


1. Kofi Annan has resigned from his position as Joint Special Envoy for the Arab League and the United Nations. This is a welcome development, as his mission has failed.

Still, the usefulness to the Russians of Kofi Annan’s mediation mission, as a means of continuing delay and blocking effective action, while concentrating attention on the Security Council where Russia and China have vetoes, has been great. It should not come as a surprise that Russia is now pushing, vigorously, for a replacement for Kofi Annan to be named quickly.

See David Alandete, “Kofi Annan anuncia que a fin de mes dejará la mediación en Siria,” El País, 3 Agosto 2012.

Alandete reports that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, following a request by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that a worthy successor to Annan be appointed soon, has already begun the search. The text of the resolution, which was initially distributed on July 31, does not take into account Kofi Annan’s resignation.

2. While Kofi Annan was indeed a flawed mediator, he is not entirely to blame for the failure of his mission. The permanent members of the Security Council, each for their own motives, supported his initiatives, and his endless conjuring of illusory agreements or “castles in the sky”.  Indeed, it appears that they more or less imposed the idea of his appointment on Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

What was fundamentally flawed was the whole concept of a joint Arab League-United Nations mediation mission, as it was clear after the failure of the Arab League mediation effort in the fall that Bashar al-Assad’s “signature” on any agreement was worthless. It was also clear that Russia and China were utterly unyielding in their opposition to effective Security Council action, demonstrated vividly by their vetoes of the October 2011 draft Security Council resolution, and the relatively bland draft Security Council resolution of February 4, 2012. The Arab League, moreover, needs to speak for itself–even when it has nothing to say.  With the Joint Special Envoy, its voice could not be heard.

3. It is now of fundamental importance and great urgency that the mediation mission which Kofi Annan headed be completely dismantled, and that Ban Ki-Moon’s search for a successor be immediately halted. The “second secretary general’s office” Annan managed to get set up in Geneva to support his mediation effort was a terrible idea, and it should be disassembled as soon as possible. Certainly its funding should not be extended. The last thing the world needs now is a group of well-paid U.N. diplomats, interested in perpetuating their own mission, running around on their own initiative stirring up more trouble than actually helping the situation in Syria.  Kofi Annan’s last visit to Iran, trying to enlist the Iranians in saving his mission, makes the point. Further, the creation of an unneeded bureaucratic entity in Geneva, a kind of office of a second secretary general, with its own  bureaucratic and budgetary momentum, should be opposed at all costs, for budgetary reasons, to be sure, but more importantly because it introduces even more dysfunctional dynamics into U.N. decision-making. Ban Ki-Moon’s search for a successor, as noted above, should be stopped.

4. A new mediator would not help the situation. Any agreement between Russia and France, the United Kingdom, and the United States will best be achieved by direct negotiations between them. Once a ceasefire has been established, the naming of a new U.N. coordinator for international assistance to Syria may make sense. Before, then, no successor to Annan should be named, at the risk of giving a second life to the utterly abortive mediation mission that all now recognize was a total failure.

5. What is urgent at the moment is to stop the raging civil war that is underway in Syria from claiming more lives. This requires fresh thinking, and fresh approaches. Military intervention outside the framework of the Security Council, without Security Council authorization, should remain under urgent and active consideration by all countries interested in halting the killing, and avoiding an escalation of the conflict that might draw other countries into a regional war.

6. These actions can be justified under international law, and should be. Nonetheless, great care should be taken to avoid setting any broad precedents that would undermine the central role of the Security Council in resolving international disputes and halting the widespread commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in other countries in the future.

The case of Syria is very special, and humanitarian intervention would be limited to a situation where 1) the government of Syria has utterly failed to fulfill its “responsibility to protect” its own citizens; 2) the government is itself actively engaged in campaigns involving the widespread commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes; 3) the Security Council has voted by large majorities to take steps to halt the killing in Syria and been blocked only by the vetoes of Russia and China; 4) the General Assembly has by overwhelming majorities condemned the atrocities and barbarism of the al-Assad regime; 5) the Human Rights Council has by overwhelming majorities condemned the al-Assad regime for its barbarity, including crimes against humanity as reported by its own Commission of Inquiry and confirmed by Navi Pillay, the U. N. High Commissioner for Human Rights; 6) humanitarian intervention, even involving the use of force if necessary, is urgently required to stop the continuing massacres now underway in Syria, primarily by government troops and militias, but also by rebel groups in some instances; and 7) such humanitarian intervention can be justified under international law as temporary measures of interim protection taken on an emergency basis to protect civilian populations until such time as the Security Council can act effectively to control the situation.

7. Intense pressures, including the adoption of unilateral economic measures, should be brought to bear on Russia by many countires, to bring Putin to understand he cannot continue to block effective action by the Security Council without paying a very high price in his bilateral relations with others.

8.  Fresh thinking should substitute for the kind of mind-numbing repetition of diplomatic formula which are employed only because they have been repeated in countless resolutions.  One example is the call for “a Syrian led, all-inclusive” process of negotiations for transitional arrangements and solutions to the problems in Syria.  Diplomats and other foreign-policy decision-makers need to stop and think, to think on their feet, because that is what the situation requires.  It is evident that the negotiation process that may be required in the future will not be Syrian-led.  This formula has from the beginning only strengthened Bashar al-Assad’s hand.  (Happily, there is some progress on this point in today’s resolution.) Or, to cite another example, instead of mindlessly condemning the recent bombing in Damscus by the rebels which killed al-Assad’s top defense officials as an act of terror, diplomats should stop and reflect on the fact that there is civil war raging in the country, think about who is mainly responsible for that, and then come up with a different formulation.

9. There is an untold story about the circumstances under which General Robert Mood, UNSMIS commander, departed from his assignment after insisting that his observers stand down due to safety concerns and the fact that they could not carry out their mandate. His replacement, variously referred to as the “acting” head of UNSMIS or the “new” head of UNSMIS, Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, arrived up in Damascus on July 31, held a news conference, and immediately started sending his monitors out on missions. Whether the security of the monitors is being given full consideration, or being outweighed by the political calculus of trying to keep UNSMIS going beyond its current “final” 30-day authorization, remains to be determined. The failures of the U.N. on security issues in Iraq, leading to the bombing which killed Sérgio de Mello and 20 others, should be borne in mind.

10. The General Assembly’s adoption of the Resolution on the Situation in Syria on August 3 is a positive development, having required nations to take a stand on issues of transcendental importance. The overwhelming majority of members of the U.N. have taken a clear stand on Syria. Meanwhile, Russia and China stand against the world in continuing to support al-Assad’s murderous regime.

11.  Nonetheless, it is actions, not words, that are now urgently required to stop the killing in Syria.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and 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. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , 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, Dr. Rowles 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. Dr. Rowles 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.=LL.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, Dr. Rowles 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 some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.