Skip to main content
Amnesty International UK
Log in

Syria: military intervention – six key points from Amnesty International

In recent days, several governments, including the UK, USA and France have signalled their intention to take military action against the Syrian government, which they hold responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attacks of 21 August. The horrific scenes in the dozens of videos I have watched from those incidents are some of the most haunting I have witnessed during this long and brutal conflict.

So now the spectre of an international armed conflict looms between the Syrian government and foreign military forces.The protection of civilians is a key priority for Amnesty International and that is why we 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).

Meanwhile, the joint UN and Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has been trying to convene an international conference based on the Geneva Communiqué to resolve the crisis. However, deadlock at the UN Security Council has so far prevented attempts to resolve this brutal and bloody conflict. The Syrian government has felt free to carry on committing the most sickening violations of human rights, such as launching ballistic missiles at civilian areas, seemingly confident that they will be protected by allies such as Russia and China, two countries which appear to be mistaking callousness for high principles. Unless that dynamic changes and effective pressure is applied on all parties, it is extremely difficult to see how negotiations alone will resolve this crisis.

Targeted sanctions, namely a freeze on the assets of President Assad and others who may be involved in ordering or perpetrating crimes under international law, a referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court and the deployment of an effective international human rights monitoring mission would, however, go some way to contributing to conditions for meaningful negotiations aimed at a solution that respects the human rights of all Syrians. 

The international community also needs to take urgent steps to ease the crippling humanitarian situation inside the country, where more than 4.25 million people are believed to be displaced. In particular, it should ensure that all parties to the armed conflict in Syria allow unfettered access to humanitarian organisations and agencies to provide assistance to a civilian population desperate for relief. As for the Syrian government, they really need to allow cross-border access, as well as cross-line access, and they need to do that quickly. 

As my colleague Cilina Nasser recently said, "We are beyond hand-wringing on Syria. Civilians continue to be targeted or killed indiscriminately. The time for action is now." That action must include actively prioritising the human rights of all Syrians.

Here is an extended Amnesty International Q&A which goes into these issues in more details.

Kristyan Benedict is on Twitter as @KreaseChan



About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
View latest posts

Disgusting. Amnesty says let the killing commence but do it in a "nice" manner. You learned nothing from the lies that led to the destruction of Iraq. I will never ever support Amnesty again. A revolting endorsement of the unrelenting bombing campaign that is about to begin.

seankenan 10 years ago

As an ex Amnesty supporter it truly saddens me that the organisation is once again revealed as simply a supporter of Western gunboat diplomacy to help the poor unfortunate (dark-skinned) savages. It is well known that the West and the salafists in Saudi have been funding and arming the extremists in Syria for over a year now with the direct result of large scale destruction of infrastructure and lives . The UN results aren't in about the chemical attacks, but obviously Amnesty mysteriously knows who the culprits are? Yes the Assad regime is brutal, but Amnesty is obviously wanting more destruction, similar to its support for the Western invaders in Afghanistan and Libya and their total destruction of a functioning state. Whose side are you on?-certainly not the Syrian population.

paulm100m 10 years ago

I never doubted your affiliation to unsavory quarters. But this is really a breakthrough!

What you are whispering is: "Feel free to kill, only try to aim well!"

I am sure the Syrian people appreciate your advice, and would try to remember Amnesty International as the human rights organization which doesn't care for human beings, in the first place!

And the curtain falls!

Hermann.Helmholtz 10 years ago

I am burning my Amnesty International card. You have disgraced your cause by embracing violence and terrorism. Your FSA allies regularly decapitate prisoners on video. The children murdered in the chemical weapons attack were actually kidnapped from the Latakia Region, an Assad stronghold. Before that staged "snuff video," an FSA Rebel group run by a Libyan mercenary-- not a Syrian-- tried to exchange the hostages for rebel prisoners held by Assad. I'm horrified. You have truly damaged your reputation and credibility.

slindauer2008 10 years ago