Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution, which has blocked Syria from facing the International Criminal Court. The only two countries out of 13 to vote against the resolution, the Syrian allies received international backlash.
The results did not come as a shock. The announcement marks the fourth time Russia and China have used their veto power against resolutions in Syria, where at least 160,000 people have been killed and 9.5 million displaced from their homes.
Before the vote, a permanent French representative urged support for the resolution, saying a veto would only “cover up” what many in the UN fear are crimes against humanity. Despite the words of support, the permanent Russian representative Vitaly Churkin came to the meeting, warning he would be “boringly predictable.”
China remained silent on the issue before the vote took place, but as expected fell in line with Russia. International frustration was voiced after the veto, with the Syrian National Coalition calling it a “disgrace.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power accused Russia of withholding justice from victims of crime in Syria. “Because…the Russian Federation…[backs] the Syrian regime no matter what,” she said, “Syrian people [won’t] see justice today.”
Power then went on to note that though the outcome was not optimal, it was “important…to hear the kind of testimony we might have…if Russia and China [had] not raised their hands [against] accountability for war crimes.”
The council members then heard, through Power, the story of Qusay Zakarya, who she said nearly died at the hands of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
Russia reacted to the vehement statements saying the resolution came at the wrong time and would only stir up further violence in Syria. “What justice can [we] talk about,” asked Churkin, “when the…policy aims at escalating the conflict?”
Churkin defended Russia and China’s veto, which blocked Syria from the ICC, claiming the resolution was “an attempt to use the [court] to further inflame…political passions and lay… groundwork for…outside military intervention.” Instead, he suggested a move similar to the chemical weapons resolution reached last year.
Though the chemical weapon plan is not going as the U.N. had hoped. The Syrian government did hand over most of its 1300 metric tons of weaponry to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). But the Syrian state still houses seven percent of its original stockpile, which is just enough for a full scale attack.
So far, the government has failed to fulfill several deadlines, including its promise to give up the remaining stock by April 27. It has also failed to demolish a number of facilities outlined in the chemical weapons program.
The government insists the road to the housed weapons, which are together at a single site, is not completely under their control, making the deal impossible to close. Though current speculations of attacks using chlorine gas have the OPCW worried.
“The alleged use of [chemical weaponry] in Syria is [a] grave concern to the OPCW,” said Ahmet Uzumcu, the group’s director-general. “All efforts should be made…to enable safe access for our team enabling it to [complete] its important work.”
The questionable success of the chemical weapons deal had UN Security Council members looking towards this resolution as a more dramatic step. But since Syria is not part of the Rome Statute, which created the ICC, it is nearly impossible.
The nation can only be investigated though government cooperation (which is unlikely) or a UN Security Council referral. Bringing Syria to the ICC for suspicion of war crimes seems hopeless after the recently blocked resolution by Russia and China, neither of whom are predicted to forfeit their veto power.
By Erin P. Friar