Press Release
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Refusing The Plan Of War Lead by US Government Towards Syria

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To: The Government of United States

On behalf of The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), we would like to convey our strong criticism towards military intervention by United States to resolve the conflict in Syria.

We judge the military intervention that United States does is not an appropriate step because it does not prioritize the principles of human rights could escalate into a wider conflict with many hundreds of thousands more victims and no exit strategy.

Military intervention is not only about retaliation and the use of authority, but there are human rights of many people on it that can become more threatened due to military intervention.

The consequences of military intervention are inevitable: collateral damage, exacerbation of the conflict and suffering of civilians, radicalization of forces in the region, and making the prospect of a peaceful negotiation will even more remote. Military intervention will not help the Syrian people secure relief from the violence nor will it result in a peaceful transition to a democratic and accountable government. The impact that any military escalation could have on displaced Syrians across the region.

The protection of civilians is a key priority for us and that is why we encourage the United States to call on all parties who could be involved to comply with international humanitarian law. In particular, those concerned absolutely must:

  • Refrain from targeting civilians or civilian objects;

  • Refrain from carrying out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks;

  • Refrain from using weapons which are inherently indiscriminate or otherwise prohibited under international humanitarian law, including cluster munitions;

  • Take all necessary precautions in attacks to spare civilians, including by issuing warnings to civilians wherever feasible, and paying particular heed to the fact that detainees are being held in military bases and facilities;

  • Take precautions to protect civilians under their control against the effect of attacks, including avoiding, to the extent feasible, locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas, and removing, where feasible, civilians from the vicinity of military objectives;

  • Refrain from using civilians to render military objectives immune from attack (that is, as human shields).

We encourage the United States to reconsider plans regarding military intervention to Syria, and shifting the focus to alternative possibilities. There are systems in place that could and should be used:

1. Ensure effective investigation of the attack through an extension of the existing mandate of the UN inspections. The UN inspections must be allowed to be completed. The inspection team has so far collected samples and interviewed victims and witnesses. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has argued that the team must be allowed to do its job and establish the facts, pushing back against the US and UK government’s assertions of “certainty” about the facts of the case and their demands that the inspection team leave the country. Once the inspectors have determined whether chemical weapons were used and perhaps the origins of these weapons, the international community should then act in accordance with international law in its response.

2. Seek a UN Security Council resolution to secure the hand-over of any Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) in the possession of any party to the conflict. The first obligation on the UN Security Council is to ensure the prevention of further chemical weapons use. Consequently, it should promulgate a resolution to facilitate the seizure of the prohibited weapons. This could get the support of the Russian government, which has supported the prohibition of use of chemical weapons and which seems to have considerable influence over the Syrian government. Because of Russia’s strong participation in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, (which has a larger geographical mandate than just Europe), the OSCE may also be able to secure the hand-over of the weapons.

3. Request the UN Security Council refer the matter to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC has been established to bring justice when a state is unwilling or unable to do so, as would be the case here. There needs to be an investigation into the identification of the perpetrators and the nature of the command responsibility. Syria is not a party to the ICC but the UN Security Council can and should refer the matter to the office of the prosecutor and ensure that funds are available for investigation and indictment.

4. Support a political solution through inclusive peace talks. The political process developed to provide a political solution to the Syrian crisis through “Geneva I” talks in 2012 and planned “Geneva II” talks this year have been established to provide a political rather than military solution to the crisis. The first set of discussions developed a plan for a transitional government in Syria involving both government and opposition members. This discussion needs to be continued in Geneva II talks with strengthened support from permanent UN Security Council members.

By quoting the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says: “The military logic has given us a country on the verge of total destruction, a region in chaos and a global threat. Why add more fuel to the fire?” We would like to finish our letter.

We are looking forward for your meaningful response. Thank you for your attention.

Jakarta, 12 September 2013

Executive Committee of KontraS

Haris Azhar