Friday, 4 April 2014

Words alone

Update on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139

Cross-posted from
Previous post: Enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139

Text of resolution 2139
United Nations Security Council, 22 February 2014

Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2139 (2014)
UN Security Council 24 March 2014. Also available here in English and Arabic.
During the reporting period, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, including aerial bombings, shelling, mortars and car bombs in populated areas, caused mass civilian death and injuries and forced displacement. Publicly available reports indicate that clashes between government and opposition forces continued in most parts of the Syrian Arab Republic. There were continued reports of artillery shelling and air strikes, including the use of barrel bombs, by government forces. Car bombings and suicide attacks, including against civilian targets, resulted in civilian deaths and injuries. Many such attacks were claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and the Nusrah Front. Clashes also took place between armed opposition groups and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, mainly in the north. Government-controlled cities and towns, including Damascus, were subject to mortar attacks by armed opposition groups. Reported daily death tolls were on average in excess of 200 people, including civilians.

Syria: UN official cites ‘bleak’ humanitarian situation, urges unhindered access to civilians
UN News Centre, 28 March 2014
The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator warned the Security Council today that as the Syrian civil war grinds on and millions of desperate people remain cut off from aid, “the humanitarian situation remains bleak, and will continue to be bleak, unless we are granted full and unhindered access, through the most efficient and direct means.”

“I told the Council that we need to see a significant step-change in the speed and scale of humanitarian aid, if we are to save lives and keep pace with the ever-growing needs,” said Valerie Amos, speaking to the press after briefing Council members on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on implementation of the key elements of resolution 2139 (2014), which focused on humanitarian access to besieged and hard-to-reach areas, including across conflict lines and across borders, and the expansion of humanitarian relief operations.

Ms. Amos, who is also the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said while the Council’s resolution had demanded an end to the fighting and enhanced access for aid and relief workers, the situation for desperate civilians had not changed and the violence had only intensified in the four weeks since the text’s adoption, with many people killed and injured.

Moreover, since 22 February, some 300 cases of sexual violence have been recorded in Damascus and Rural Damascus alone. “I am also very concerned that hundreds of thousands of people have been newly displaced from areas like eastern Aleppo and Yabroud in the south – driving them further from the reach of humanitarian assistance,” she added.

Her words echoed the grim picture the Secretary-General painted in his report of the situation on the ground, characterized by indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, including aerial bombings, shelling, mortars and car bombs in populated areas, causing mass civilian death and injuries and forced displacement. He adds that reported daily death tolls over the past month were on average in excess of 200 people, including civilians.

The report also says heavy fighting was particularly intense in Aleppo, Dar‘a and Rural Damascus governorates. At least 500,000 people have been displaced from the eastern part of the city of Aleppo since late January. Approximately 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are sheltering in camps close to the Turkish border, while some 22,300 people fled to Turkey during the reporting period. In Dar‘a, “fierce fighting between Government forces and armed opposition groups escalated, leaving around 159,000 people displaced as at the end of February,” says the report.

The Secretary-General goes on to note that as the conflict intensifies and fighting
between armed groups increases, more people are slipping out of the reach of humanitarian organizations. Around 3.5 million people are now estimated to be in need of assistance in hard-to-reach areas, an increase of 1 million since the beginning of 2014.

Syria: Defying Security Council on Aid Access
Human Rights Watch, 28 March 2014
The Syrian government’s refusal to allow aid to enter the country through border crossings held by opposition groups is undermining aid deliveries to hundreds of thousands of desperate people. The government’s refusal violates the international laws of war.

In a resolution adopted unanimously on February 22, 2014, the UN Security Council demanded that “all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, including across conflict lines and across borders.”

Since that date, the Syrian government has for the first time allowed assistance to enter the country through Qamishli, a government-held border crossing on its northern border with Turkey. But the government has reiterated its categorical rejection of UN requests to ship aid through other border crossings in Turkey and Jordan that are opposition-held.

“No one should be fooled by Syria’s agreement to open a single border crossing in the north,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Syria’s refusal to consider allowing aid to enter through border crossings controlled by the opposition means that the situation of the vast majority of people in desperate need of help remains unchanged.”

Syria crisis: UN says no aid improvement despite vote
BBC News, 29 March 2014
The UN has said that there has been no humanitarian improvement for millions of Syrians since the Security Council passed a resolution last month to increase aid deliveries.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said that much of the blame lay with President Bashar al-Assad's government.

On Syria, US and UN are all talk and no action
Washington Post editorial, 3 April 2014
It’s been nearly six weeks since the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 2139, which ordered the regime and rebels to “promptly allow unhindered humanitarian access” and threatened “further steps” in the case of noncompliance.

Since then, according to U.N. humanitarian coordinator Valerie Amos, the war of starvation has worsened. The number of Syrians cut off from international aid has grown since January by 1 million, to 3.5 million. At least 180,000 people are in areas directly blockaded by government troops, which refuse to allow in supplies of food or medicine. In direct contravention of the U.N. resolution, the Assad regime has authorized aid convoys to cross only one of eight border posts identified by U.N. relief coordinators.


The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, called Ms. Amos’s report “harrowing.” She said the Assad government “is the sole reason for the lack of progress in cross-border assistance” that “would allow the U.N. and its partners access to almost 4 million people.” She said: “The Assad regime’s murderous appetite for deploying artillery, ‘barrel bombs’ and airstrikes against civilians . . . is the No. 1 factor driving displacement and the broader humanitarian ­crisis.”

Thursday, 3 April 2014

‘Video Shop’ plays in the London Independent Film Festival

Congratulations to John Dog whose recent finger puppet production Video Shop is playing next weekend in the London Independent Film Festival – Saturday April 12th at 6pm to be precise, as part of a 90 minute program of music videos. For those of us who can’t make it, we’ll have to make do with watching it again on YouTube:

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

In print

And available shortly from fine bookshops, or directly from Nobrow Press.

Inside, waves of paper, covered with inky sea monsters.

The original Leporello recorded a list of lovers, but this leporello is a litany of death and disaster.

The cover is a separate piece of paper, and doubles as a ballad sheet.

Thanks to wonderful Nobrow, seeing this in print has been the most satisfying revelation!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139

Cross-posted from

Today marks three years since the start of the Syrian conflict, and three weeks since the passing of Resolution 2139 (Syria – Humanitarian Assistance). The resolution made several demands including the following:

(1) it strongly condemned “widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities, as well as the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed groups…”

(2) demanded “an end to all forms of violence…”

(3) demanded “that all parties immediately cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs…”

(4) demanded “that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, fully implement the provisions of the 2 October 2013 Statement by the President of the Security Council (S/PRST/2013/15) including through facilitating the expansion of humanitarian relief operations…”

(5) called upon “all parties to immediately lift the sieges of populated areas…”

(6) demanded “that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners…”

(7) Urged “all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to take all appropriate steps to facilitate the efforts of the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and all humanitarian actors engaged in humanitarian relief activities…”

(8) Demanded “that all parties respect the principle of medical neutrality and facilitate free passage to all areas for medical personnel, equipment, transport and supplies…”

… and more. Read the full text here.

Since then violence has not stopped. The shelling and the bombing of civilian areas by Assad’s air force has not stopped (here, here, here). The UN and aid agencies are still being blocked from bringing relief supplies. Sieges have continued. Seemingly deliberate attacks on hospitals by Assad’s forces have continued.

Resolution 2139 concludes by requesting “the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution by all parties in Syria… in 30 days of its adoption and every 30 days thereafter, and upon receipt of the Secretary-General’s report, expresses its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance with this resolution.”

The Secretary-General’s first report will fall due Monday week. As Assad’s non-compliance is already clear, Security Council members should now be making ready measures to enforce the resolution. A particular responsibility will rest on the Permanent Five members. If as in the past Russia and China refuse to co-operate with enforcement measures, that responsibility will rest with France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

There are three reasons why UNSC 2139 must be enforced. The first is humanitarian. On past evidence, carefully targeted military action against Assad, particularly against his air force, would likely save many more lives than it would put at risk.

The second is to preserve and build the legitimacy of international humanitarian law, international law in general, and the UN Security Council in particular. The repeated use by UNSC Permanent Members veto power to shield perpetrators of mass murder undermines the legitimacy of the institution. Human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty have called for reform of the use of the veto power, but the lack of such reform doesn’t absolve individual members from their responsibility to uphold the express will of the UNSC, and their responsibility to uphold international humanitarian law in general, particularly in cases where the nature of the breach can only be effectively dealt with by powerful and technologically sophisticated military forces.

The third reason why UNSC 2139 must be enforced is because Syria’s war presents an increasing threat to citizens of other countries, including citizens of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It is in all of our interests to reduce the violence and to break the spell of impunity currently granted to the perpetrators.

Syria (still) needs a No-Fly Zone
Imposing an NFZ carries risks, but the risks are outweighed by the cost of allowing Assad’s air force to continue killing. This article compares the known cost in civilian lives of Libya’s No-Fly Zone with the known scale of killing by aircraft in Syria.

No-Fly Zone options
Reasons for favouring a limited strike option

NFZ reading list
Links to research, journalism, and advocacy.

Friday, 14 March 2014

What was the 22nd of February?

The 22nd of February was my daughter Peggy’s tenth birthday.

The 22nd of February was the second anniversary of the killing of journalists Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik by regime shelling in Baba Amr, Homs, Syria.

The 22nd of February was the day Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency of Ukraine came to an end. But how did it come to an end? Was the 22nd of February a democratic, constitutional transfer of power? Or was it a coup?

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Launching my Leporello: sailing from Dublin Bay to the Swiss Alps

Worse Things Happen at Sea is the title of my forthcoming Leporello book from Nobrow Press. It’s a concertina book of ships and sea monsters, a series of disasters in both its subject matter and in the history of its making. During the drawing of it I’ve been losing my mind, losing my eyesight, and lost a couple of months’ work in a burglary. Now the art is all delivered, so barring a flood at the printers, it should be on sale in the next few weeks.

To launch the book, I’ll be travelling to a couple of events in Ireland and Switzerland with fellow Nobrow artists. Next week, illustrator Bjørn Rune Lie, Nobrow partner Sam Arthur, and myself, will be going to Offset, a graphic design festival in Dublin that runs from the 21st to the 23rd of March. Sam will be telling the story of Nobrow on Friday at 12 noon on the Magenta Stage, while Bjørn and I will be talking about our latest books on Sunday at 12 noon, again on the Magenta Stage.

Then in April, Luke Pearson, Andrew Rae, and myself, will all be exhibiting work at the Fumetto comics festival in Lucerne, Switzerland. As well as original drawings for Worse Things Happen at Sea, I’ll also be showing paintings from Het Zeemans-ABC (A Sailor’s ABC) the Dutch Little Golden Book by Nienke Denekamp that I illustrated a while back. Fumetto runs from the 5th to the 13th of April, and I will be there myself ’til the 9th.