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The Biden Administration must use every tool at its disposal to prevent this blocking of lifesaving aid – and COVID-19 vaccines – to millions of Syrians, Amnesty International USA said today in a letter addressed to U.S. President Joe Biden.

Geoffrey Mock, the Middle East country specialist at Amnesty International USA said:

“The Biden administration must show its leadership in supporting continued humanitarian access through Bab al-Hawa, and the reopening of two other currently closed crossing points – Bab al-Salam in the north-west and al-Yarubiyah in north-east. The shameful threat by the governments of Russia and China to close Bab al-Hawa would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences, affecting the lives of more than a million people in north-west Syria for whom Bab al-Hawa is the sole remaining lifeline. We appreciate the support of the Biden administration for the crossing to remain open, but far more action is necessary to meet the severity of the moment.

“Beyond ensuring the continuation of humanitarian aid, President Biden and Congress can take on a greater role for the U.S. in supporting, providing aid to, and resettling of Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers. As local Syrian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) face devastating losses of funding, the U.S. must increase financial support for their crucial services.”

Amnesty International USA is calling on the Biden administration to take the following actions:

  • Exhaust every avenue, including stronger public pressure, to ensure that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) protects aid access through the Bab al-Hawa crossing and the millions of Syrians for whom cross-border aid is the difference between life and death; and continue to firmly work towards the crucial reopening of the al-Yarubiyah and Bab al-Salam crossings.
  • Dramatically increase direct U.S. support for Syrians in need regardless of the vote’s outcome by providing greater financial support for local Syrian NGOs, UN-funded facilities, and refugee shelters and the crucial humanitarian assistance they provide; expand direct delivery of vital medical aid and COVID-19 vaccines; and scale up U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees.
  • Strengthen commitment to human rights by leading on and supporting public calls for international accountability measures for all parties that have committed human rights abuses and violations during the Syrian civil war, including the Syrian government.
  • Take a position of leadership in calling for an end to usage of UNSC vetoes that would block resolutions regarding humanitarian crises as well as access for UN aid and assistance therein.

Amnesty International USA is calling on the international community to press for accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by parties in the Syrian conflict. While the UN has established a mechanism that assists in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible of serious crimes, paralysis on the Security Council has blocked the referral of the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Over the past decade, Russia and China have vetoed UN Security Council resolutions to deter violations in Syria at least 15 times.

Background and Context

Over 80% of the 4.2 million Syrians in the country’s northwest, overwhelmingly internally displaced people, rely on humanitarian aid delivered by the UN through the Bab al-Hawa crossing, the last remaining aid corridor in the country.

Read more from Amnesty International:

Syria: Russian threat to veto renewal of last aid corridor leaves millions at risk of humanitarian catastrophe (News, June 25, 2021)

UN: Russia and China launch despicable veto of lifesaving aid for millions of civilians in Syria (news, July 7, 2020)