Towards the end of 2021, international lawyers at Guernica 37 (“G37”), received a request initiated and seed funded by the Syrian led humanitarian aid group the American Relief Coalition for Syria (“ARCS”) to independently, objectively and thoroughly explore whether a United Nations Security Council ("UNSC") Resolution is the only way to deliver cross border aid to millions of people in Syria, and if such basis exists, to draft expert analyses on the legal issues surrounding Syrian cross border aid.
During the Syrian conflict, the Syrian official Authorities have continued to illegally obstruct humanitarian access to Syrians outside of areas of its effective control. As such, since 2014 the UNSC has authorised cross border aid to peoples in the north-west and beyond. Recently, however, this framework has become increasingly politicised, and just one of the four border crossings initially authorised remains operational, following Russian/Chinese vetoes. In December 2022, this final border crossing will also likely be vetoed, putting the lives of millions at risk.
The 2014 Letter
In 2014 a letter signed by 35 eminent professors, judges and international lawyers (including a former Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs) even prior to the first UNSC resolution authorising cross border, argued that the UN does not have a legal barrier to deliver aid cross border into Syria. The letter can be found here.
In 2014, leading international experts confirmed that there was no legal barrier to UN cross-border operations in Syria in the absence of a UN Security Council Resolution.
There still isn’t.
See here for a letter, published in 2023 and endorsed by 16 pre-eminent international jurists, including former judges of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, alongside leading professors, international litigators, and researchers, confirming, without doubt, that there are still avenues outside of the UN Security Council to serve those in Syria that are in more need than ever.
As the world looks on, the UN must leave a legacy of using its mandate to save lives, rather than allowing it to be constrained by narrow interpretations of the law that needlessly block aid to millions of the world's most vulnerable.
THE LEGAL QUESTION
The question explored by G37 was:
Whilst the UNSC mandate may have given a clearer legal basis for delivering cross border aid in the fractured and fast-moving Syrian conflict in 2014, is it now, in 2022, according to well accepted legal views, just one of several legal bases on which UN Agencies may continue to provide cross border aid in specifically the Syrian context?
The answer, was Yes.
The above conclusion was reached after more than 6 months of researching legal opinions produced by eminent legal scholars and judgments of international courts and applying them to the facts of the Syrian conflict in 2022.
The legal effort:
In strategic coordination with the American Relief Coalition for Syria, who will be leading a humanitarian campaign on the issue, and supported by a group of Syrian civil society organisations (to be announced below), G37 will now take this legal matter forward, using strategic advocacy amongst key legal stakeholders.
This website serves as an information hub for the legal element of the wider effort. It will include references to the legal materials on the issue, interviews with legal experts soon to be published, letters of support by eminent jurists, etc.
If you would like to receive updates on legal publications and news with regards to this effort, please join our mailing list, and If you have questions about our work, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org