by Yibakuo David Amakiri

As Syria’s crisis continue, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the American Secretary of State John Kerry have negotiated a deal with the Syrian government to destroy its chemical weapons. Worthy of note is the fact that Syria has vast amounts of chemical weapons stored in different areas of the country especially in the capital Damascus. These chemical weapons include mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, and the extremely dangerous VX gas. It is alleged that sometime in August 2013, the Syrian government unleashed some of these chemical weapons on its own people resulting in the death of about 1400 people in Syria. The use of chemical weapons was confirmed by the UN inspectors on the 17th of September, 2013.
Under the deal brokered by the United States and Russia, Syria agreed to disclose its full chemical weapons arsenal, including location and quantity, within a week (i.e. by September21) and eliminate all of it by the first half of 2014. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OCPW) is to approve procedures for the weapons to be destroyed and provide stringent verification that Syria has infact done the destruction. If Syria fails to comply, the UN Security Council could then be called upon through a Chapter VII Resolution. However according to some reports it is not exactly very clear whether resort to a Chapter VII Resolution was part of the deal. While Americans are averring it is, the Russians are rejecting same, taking a more cautious approach.[1]
A Chapter VII Resolution is a resolution of the United Nations Security Council passed pursuant to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. The gamut of that Chapter of the UN Charter is that the Security Council can pass a resolution authorising the use of armed force through air, sea or land forces where other measures fail at arresting a threat to international peace and security. That is contained precisely at Article 42 of the UN Charter. However for those provisions to be activated, Articles 40 and 41 must be complied with, which involves “calling upon parties involved to comply with provisional measures”.If the chemical weapons deal is not backed up by strong consequences for non-compliance ending up in the invocation of a Chapter VII Resolution by the UN Security Council, then I do not think the deal would have its desired effects.
But is giving up or destroying the stockpile of chemical weapons the real issue in this conflict? Or is the pending military action the real issue for international law? Or is it arming the Syrian rebels? To me those are not supposed to be the real issues for international law and diplomacy. The real issue should be why have international law and by implication international alliances been unable to stop the broad day light massacre of the Syrian people? Why has this crisis descended so low if there was an international structure designed to help nations live harmoniously with themselves first and with their neighbours? Why would it take the use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad’s regime for international law and alliances to take the conflict very seriously?  Why would even the Syrian Rebels led by the Free Syrian army be allowed to engage in such carnage giving room for terrorist elements to creep into the conflict?

No doubt the Syrian episode have taken the Arab Springs too far. Far beyond what started as a mere popular uprising. It is now a degradation of a people. The Syrian crisis have called into question the objective of international alliances that gave birth to international laws like the UN Charter, the UNDHR,  the Chemical Weapons Convention, etc.
When the nations of the world decided to fraternise as a ‘United Nations’, they had certain objectives in mind. Those objectives had situations like Syria in perspective. Some of those objectives can be found in the Preamble to the UN Charter. The Preamble states in part as follows;
“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED:
·         To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime have brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
·         To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of women and of nations large and small… and
·         To unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
·         To ensure… that armed force should not be used, save in the common interest…
HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS.”
In the light of the atrocities going on in Syria, are these objectives still at the thrust of international relations or are they a mere crinkum-crankum?
If the chemical weapons are dropped or destroyed by the regime, then what? This is question is important because conventional weapons have been doing damage in Syria since two years ago. So the use or prevention of the use of chemical weapons should not be the real issue in this conflict.
What about the millions of Syrians being snipped at every day in their own country? What about the over one million refugees who have to told neighbouring countries like Turkey, Lebanon, etc.? What about the millions of children who have had to drop out of school because of daily bombings?
Remember that sometime in the past the former Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan had come up with a peace plan which the Assad regime accepted but did not enforce. The international community also did not enforce it. Also there was the Ibrahima plan as well which was not respected in action. So the real issue for international law is not chemical weapons deal (which for now has the colouration of a gentleman’s agreement) but a perceived tolerance for the interest of allies even though they are erring states and continuously running foul of international standards.

While thousands of Syrians die at the hands of the Assad regime and even the rebels everyday, a deal to contain chemical weapons is hardly the real issue at stake.

About the author

Nigerian Law Today

NLT’s mission is to take legal-content writing to the next level in Nigeria by leveraging legal expertise and technology. We publish fresh, original, and insightful articles on areas of law we cover.

Leave a Comment