UN Cross-Border Aid Must Continue to Enter Syria, Even If Russia Vetoes It

Russia Is a Party to the Syrian Conflict and Uses the Veto Even While It and the Syrian Regime Commit the Crime of Forced Displacement, Which Constitutes a Crime against Humanity

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Press release:
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) notes in its report released today entitled “UN Cross-Border Aid Must Continue to Enter Syria, Even If Russia Vetoes It” that Russia is a party to the Syrian conflict, using its UN veto even while it and the Syrian regime continue to perpetrate the crime of forced displacement, which constitutes a crime against humanity, with the report further stressing that millions of internally displaced Syrians in northwest Syria are in dire need of UN cross-border aid.

The 13-page report reveals that the imminent renewal of the UN resolution on cross-border aid delivery into Syria is again being exploited by Russia to blackmail the United Nations and donor countries, with Russia and the Syrian regime effectively treating millions of Syrians who they displaced, whose homes they have destroyed, and whom they continue to terrorize, as hostages.

As the report further notes, despite the horrendous conditions they face in the areas of displacement, the vast majority of the internally displaced people have chosen not to return to the areas controlled by the Syrian regime and its allies, for fear of the brutal security services’ practices.

The report points out that, as data from the United Nations and international and local organizations confirm, the practices of Russia and the Syrian regime are causing the already dire conditions of internally displaced persons in northwest Syria to deteriorate further, going from bad to worse, with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimating the number of displaced persons in this area at approximately 4.1 million Syrian citizens who are dependent on aid to meet their basic needs; nearly 2.4 million of these people receive aid through a monthly cross-border delivery mechanism.
In a related context, the report notes that internally displaced people are the most vulnerable group in society, having lost their homes, possessions, and livelihoods, and facing scarce job opportunities. Therefore, most members of this group are wholly dependent on UN humanitarian aid to survive, and if this aid declines or stops, Syria will face a terrible famine. The need for UN aid in northwest Syria exceeds the threshold of necessity, reaching the level of critical need that threatens the growth and life of the displaced, especially pregnant and lactating women and newborn babies.

Fadel Abdul Ghany, SNHR’s Director, says:
“The United States of America, France, and the UK should not submit to Russian blackmail in the Security Council and must stress that the entry of UN cross-border aid, which is neutral and essential, as well as being approved by those controlling both sides of the border, does not need permission from the Security Council. Additionally, despite being a party to the Syrian conflict, Russia is using its veto within the context of being a perpetrator of the crime of forced displacement alongside the Syrian regime, which amounts to crimes against humanity.”

The report notes that the Security Council has already issued ten resolutions related to the issue of UN humanitarian aid in Syria, the first of which was Resolution 2139 (February 22, 2014), which called for humanitarian aid to be allowed to arrive in Syria across conflict lines; this was followed by Resolution No. 2165 of July 2014, which allowed the United Nations to deliver cross-border aid without the permission of the Syrian regime. This resolution has been extended on five consecutive occasions without any amendments to its articles.
As the report further notes, Russia has escalated its blackmail strategy since the beginning of 2020. Due to the Russian-Chinese veto, the Security Council failed to pass a draft resolution to renew the provision of cross-border aid through the four border crossings. After complex negotiations, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2504, which allowed the delivery of cross-border humanitarian aid through two border crossings. Through this resolution, aid continued to enter northwestern Syria, while the northeastern region was denied aid entry through the al Ya’rubiya crossing, with the aid allowed through limited to that coming from Damascus. This negatively affected the residents of this region. Russia succeeded in restricting the entry of UN aid again after that, with Resolution 2533, which was adopted in July 2020, being limited to allowing the entry of aid through only one crossing.
Lastly, Russia achieved another of its objectives by introducing the concept of cross-line aid, referring to aid coming from Syrian regime-held areas toward the north of Syria, in preparation for the closure of the only remaining border crossing, as the report notes. In July 2021, Resolution 2585 extended the humanitarian aid delivery mechanism to Syria through the Bab al Hawa border crossing with Turkey for six months only, subject to automatic extension for another six months and the delivery of cross-line aid.

The report stresses that the delivery of UN cross-border aid is a legal act and does not require permission from the Security Council, adding that there is no rule in international law stating that the UNOCHA’s cross-border aid delivery is in any way illegal. The Security Council, however, monopolized this humanitarian mission and incorporated it within its own powers through the adoption of Resolution 2165; while this resolution appears, on the surface, to be supportive of UN aid, its essence is concerned with the arbitrary expansion of the Security Council’s powers and of its control over issues outside its competence, with humanitarian aid having become subject to blackmail and political horse-trading regardless of the needs of millions of Syrians and potentially of non-Syrians in other countries. The report adds that all legal experts around the world must confront the Security Council’s hegemony over the issue of cross-border aid delivery.

As the report further notes, Security Council Resolution 2585 included two new articles not included in the preceding nine Security Council resolutions. The first concerns delivering humanitarian aid across lines from Damascus, while the second is related to improving the methods of delivering humanitarian aid inside Syria and early recovery projects. After the resolution was adopted, we indicated that these articles are considered a concession by the democratic countries in favor of Russia and a Russian prelude in its relentless quest to end the entry of UN cross-border aid, allowing the Syrian regime to fully control all UN aid in Syria. The report reveals that the total number of UN cross-line aid convoys coming from the areas controlled by the Syrian regime in an entire year is five, which included only 71 trucks, constituting approximately 0.75% of the total cross-border aid. The report stresses that the Syrian regime has a long and well-proven history of looting, delaying, and obstructing the entry of UN aid.

As the report also states, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria (COI) issued a press statement on May 26, 2022, warning that it would be a failure of the highest order if the UN Security Council did not extend present cross-border aid to Syria, which ends next July 10.
The report stresses that under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, States have the responsibility to seek to provide assistance to their residents; the Syrian regime, however, has withheld consent for UN aid provision to deliver aid through the regime to control and loot as much of this aid as possible.
The report adds that Russia cannot invoke the concept of sovereignty and the consent of the Syrian regime because it is the leading cause of the displacement of the millions of deliberately displaced people whose suffering it is now using for leverage, and does not care about delivering UN aid to them.
This report clearly shows that there is no need to obtain permission from the UN Security Council or consent of the Syrian regime for the United Nations to continue delivering cross-border aid to millions of Syrian citizens who desperately need it.

The report recommends that the UN Security Council should remove its authority over the control of the entry of UN cross-border aid, as this issue falls within the remit of the United Nations General Assembly and the UNOCHA.
The report also recommends that the UN General Assembly should take additional steps towards reaching a resolution allowing the delivery of cross-border aid in cases of necessity where aid is being arbitrarily withheld, especially in light of the paralysis of the Security Council, as the use of the veto is fundamentally inconsistent with human rights, while the expansion of the powers of the Security Council is taking place at the expense of human rights, including humanitarian aid.
The report also provides other additional recommendations.

Download the full report