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.