By Greg Hall
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
MOSCOW, Russia – Russia was initially reluctant to intervene in the Syrian conflict because of the way in which the United Nations handled the Libya crisis. In addition, Russia has been a long time ally of Syria. However, on August 3, 2011, the Russian government joined the United Nations Security Council and condemned the widespread human rights violations committed by the Syrian government. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a statement to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, implying that a “sad fate” would await him if he does not implement reforms and make peace with the opposition.
The Syrian people’s quest for dignity and liberty has been sustained and unflinching for the five months since the civil unrest began. They have no armed forces or organized militias, nor have the people received outside support to help their cause. An estimated two thousand people, including children, have been killed by their own government and more than ten thousand have been detained, many of them tortured, for peacefully demanding an end to repression. Tanks also are being deployed against civilians.
Russia’s statements demonstrate a perceived shift in Moscow’s position on the Syrian crackdown. However, Russia and China were two of four countries out of thirty-seven countries in the United Nations Human Rights Council that were opposed in condemning the violence by Syrian authorities and dispatching a team to investigate the alleged human rights violations.
Russia stated that it generally opposed intervention into the affairs of other countries. Hillel Neuer, director of U.N. Watch, stated that “the world’s top human rights body shouldn’t be appeasing Syrian allies like Moscow and Beijing; the E.U. and the U.S. should make sure not to sacrifice moral clarity on the altar of consensus.”
Russia’s cooperation in the Syrian affair is necessary. The United States, like other European governments, seeks consensus. Either way, Russia will be closely watched by many in the Arab world as more and more Arab communities continue to demand greater freedoms.
For more information, please see:
Humans Rights Watch – Russia should help Syrians – 25 August 2011
CNS News – U.N. Human Rights Council Condemns Violence in Syria Without Support From China and Russia – 23 August 2011