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A No-Fly Zone for Syria

A manifesto for Syria: A No-Fly Zone for Syria

[Download PDF version: No-Fly Zone]

We call on UN Security Council permanent members UK, France, and USA, to:

• Protect Civilians
• Enforce UN Security Council Resolution 2139
• Stop Assad’s air attacks – Syria needs a No-Fly Zone

Since March 2011, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed. According to the Violations Documentation Center in Syria’s records, at least 16,000 of those killed were killed by regime air attacks dropping conventional bombs, barrel bombs, and chlorine chemical weapons. Many thousands more, adults and children, have been maimed.

As many as 95% of those killed in regime air attacks have been civilians. Over half of the women and children killed last year were victims of regime air attacks, according to Violations Documentation Center in Syria’s records.

In February 2014, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2139 which included the demand “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, and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering…”

Resolution 2139 closed with the Security Council expressing “its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance,” but since then no action has been taken to stop the air attacks. Using satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch have identified at least 450 distinct major damage sites from barrel bombs in 10 towns and villages in Daraa and over 1,000 in Aleppo, all in the year since Resolution 2139 was passed. According to figures released by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, more civilians were killed by barrel bombs in the year since Resolution 2139 than were killed by them before Resolution 2139.

In the absence of further steps by the UN Security Council as a whole, and with permanent member Russia both arming Syria’s air force and also blocking collective Security Council action, individual states enjoying the privilege of permanent membership of the Security Council must take responsibility: specifically France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

These three states, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have the proven ability to stop the Assad regime’s air attacks against civilians almost immediately. Whether individually or collectively, as an exceptional measure in support of purposes laid down by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2139, they must act to stop this slaughter.

Such action to protect civilians would be legal according to the criteria used by the UK and NATO in the 1999 Kosovo intervention. It would also be practical: By issuing an ultimatum to deter further attacks, and by responding to any further attacks with planned strikes against regime air bases launched from beyond the range of Syrian air defences, Resolution 2139’s ban on barrel bombing could be enforced without any need to fly costly and risky interception patrols in Syrian airspace, and with low risk to both air crews and civilians on the ground.

Amongst those calling for a No-Fly Zone are Syria Civil Defence, also known as The White Helmets. They have been joined by a coalition of non-violent activists united in the Planet Syria campaign who are calling for an end to barrel bombing, if necessary by means of a No-Fly Zone, as an essential requirement to enable meaningful peace talks.

Syrians first called for a No-Fly Zone in October 2011. Today that call needs our solidarity and support more than ever. It is long past time for action to stem the violence, to protect civilians, to save lives.

Photo: Demonstration calling for No-Fly Zone, Kafranbel, Syria, 21 March 2015.


Government Forces’ Use of Barrel Bombs a Year After Security Council Resolution 2139

Syrian Network For Human Rights report, 24 February 2015.

Syria: New Spate of Barrel Bomb Attacks

Human Rights Watch report, 24 February 2015.

Stop the ‘barrel bombs’ in Syria

Raed al Saleh, head of Syria Civil Defence, writing in the Washington Post, 27 March 2015

Whoever Saves a Life

By Matthieu Aikins, photographs and video by Sebastiano Tomada, 14 September 2014.

A report on Syria Civil Defence, aka the White Helmets.

Syria unrest: Protesters call for no-fly zone

BBC News report from October 2011 on protests calling for a no-fly zone.