The first part of this is now complete, with publication of an open letter coordinated by Crisis Action by over 40 VIPs – former world leaders, Nobel Peace Laureates and leading international thinkers – from over 25 countries across all editions of the Financial Times. The letter – a copy of which is pasted below – includes the signatory of the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, the Church of England’s lead bishop of defence and security.
The letter will also be picked up in Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), Estado (Brazil), Today’s Zaman (Turkey) and in Al Sharq Al Awsat (MENA) and Le Figaro (France) on Tuesday. It is hoped that it will also be picked up in Russia, South Africa and India.
From Lord Ashdown, Mr Lloyd Axworthy, Mr Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the Bishop of Wakefield and others.
Sir, One year after the start of the Syrian uprising, we are saddened to see divisions in the UN Security Council prevent a unified and proactive international response to the crisis. Responsibility for the current bloodshed ultimately rests with those in Syria ordering, permitting, or themselves committing horrific crimes. However, splits among the international community have provided the Assad government with a licence to kill. This licence must be withdrawn.
The Assad government’s continued use of lethal force against its own people is among the worst cases of deliberate violence against a civilian population that we have seen in recent years. There can be no excuse for such actions under any circumstances. In light of the heavy shelling of civilian areas and increasing casualties among women and children, we reiterate the conclusion of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: that crimes against humanity have been committed and that those responsible must be brought to account.
We fear that the current impasse in international strategy is leading to an escalation in initiatives, such as arming the regime and the opposition, which could prolong the conflict and the suffering.
To break the stalemate, we must see Russia working alongside other international partners. We urge the Russian government to join collective efforts to bring a swift end to the conflict and restore peace and stability to Syria and its surrounding region. We warmly commend the appointment of Kofi Annan as the joint UN-Arab League special envoy for Syria. He must receive strong, unanimous backing from across the international community to engage closely with all governments and non-state actors, including Russia and China, to overcome the present paralysing divide. While we understand that there is no easy way out of this crisis, the moral obligation to bridge the current impasse lies with the members of the Security Council. Let there be no mistake, the credibility and international standing of any nation standing idle in the face of the avoidable tragedy unfolding in Syria will be severely damaged.
We urge members of the Security Council to unite and pass a resolution by consensus:
1. Calling on the Syrian authorities to cease all unlawful attacks against its population immediately, remove abusive military and security forces from cities and inhabited areas, guarantee peaceful protests do not come under attack and release all political prisoners and those held under arbitrary arrest from the beginning of the uprising to the present day. All other actors should also immediately cease all use of violence.
2. Urging the Syrian government to facilitate the delivery of independent and impartial emergency aid, ensure the evacuation of injured people in places of conflict, and call for effective access for humanitarian organisations. Particular attention should be directed to safe access to civil hospitals and adequate delivery of medical care in accordance with international law.
On the anniversary of Syria’s uprising, we remember the thousands of lives lost in their pursuit of a more just and hopeful future. It is the responsibility of us all to prevent the potential deaths of thousands more men, women and children who so desperately need our help.
Andreas van Agt, Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Author
Lord Paddy Ashdown, Former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina
Lloyd Axworthy, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada
Bertrand Badie, Professor, Sciences-Po Paris
Robert Badinter, Former Minister of Justice, France
Pascal Boniface, Director of the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS)
Dr Rony Brauman, Former President of Médecins Sans Frontières
Sir Tony Brenton, Former UK Ambassador to Russia (2004-08)
Hans van den Broek, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and European Commissioner for External Relations
Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Former President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
LGen the Honourable Roméo A. Dallaire (Retd), Senator, Former Commander of UNAMIR, the United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda
Basil Eastwood, Former UK ambassador to Syria (1996-2000)
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) – Iran
Umberto Eco, Author
Jan Egeland, Former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
Ali Fakhro, Chair of the Arab Democracy Foundation
Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) – Liberia
Justice Richard Goldstone, Former Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda
David Grossman, Author
Jean Claude Guillebaud, Former President, Reporters Sans Frontières
Jürgen Habermas, Philosopher
Stéphane Frédéric Hessel, Former UN Ambassador, Architect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Bianca Jagger, Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador
Kamal Jendoubi, President of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network
Baroness Glenys Kinnock, Former UK Minister for Africa and the United Nations (2009-10)
F.W. de Klerk, Former President of South Africa
Zaki Laïdi, Professor, Sciences-Po Paris
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) – Ireland
Clovis Maksoud, Former Ambassador of the League of Arab States
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) – Guatemala
Dr Pierre Micheletti, Former Président of Médecins du Monde
David Miliband, Former UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Marwan Muasher, Former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan
C.S.R. Murthy, Professor, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Ana de Palacio, Former Foreign Minister, Spain
Rt Reverend Stephen Platten, Bishop of Wakefield
Hans-Gert Pöttering, Former President of the European Parliament
Reubens Ricupero, Former Secretary General of UNCTAD; former Minister of Finance of Brazil
Peter Singer, Philosopher
K.C. Singh, Former Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, India
Aleksander Smolar, Chairman Stefan Batory Foundation, Poland
Pär Stenbäck, Former Foreign Minister, Finland
Richard von Weizsäcker, Former President of the Federal Republic of Germany
Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) – USA
Mokhtar Yahyaoui, President of Tunisia’s Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary