Thursday, 1 January 2015

The number of civilians killed in Syria since 2011 is greater than the number of British civilians killed in the Second World War

For the entire conflict, the Violations Documentation Center in Syria has recorded 78,867 civilians killed to date, greater than the recorded number of British civilians killed in the Second World War.

The VDC is unable to record all violent deaths. By comparing their numbers to the UN’s most recent minimum count, it appears the true figure of civilians violently killed in Syria since March 2011 may well be over 137,000. All violent deaths, civilian and military, are now well over 200,000.

The UN’s minimum count of 191,369 violent deaths to the end of April 2014 was greater than Iraq Body Count’s number for total violent deaths in Iraq in the ten years from 2003 to 2013: 174,000 including combatants.

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 2139 in February of last year, demanding amongst other measures an end to aerial bombing of civilian areas. Enforcement of the resolution has been blocked by permanent member Russia, the principle supplier of arms and aircraft to Assad’s air force.

Individual states enjoying the privilege of UN Security Council membership now have a responsibility to act: specifically France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These three states have the proven ability to stop the Assad regime’s air attacks against civilians almost immediately. Their New Year’s resolution should now be to enforce the old year’s resolution.

Action is justified, in the words used by then Defence Minister George Robertson in the 1999 Parliamentary debate on the UK’s Kosovo intervention, “as an exceptional measure in support of purposes laid down by the UN Security Council, but without the Council's express authorisation.” Whether individually or collectively, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, must act now to stop this slaughter.

Protect civilians. Enforce UN Security Council Resolution 2139. Syria needs a No-Fly Zone.

• Photo: Firemen at work in bomb damaged street in London, after Saturday night raid, circa 1941. Source: US National Archives.

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