The UN General Assembly [official website] passed a resolution [press release] on Friday criticizing the Syrian government for increasing its use of heavy weapons and calling on both sides of the conflict to stop fighting. The non-binding resolution, which passed by a vote of 133-12, also chastised the UN Security Council [official website] for failing to take decisive action to curb violence in Syria. The resolution especially criticized Russia and China [Al Jazeera report] for blocking measures that could impose sanctions against Syria. In the press release, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] stressed that the interests of the Syrian people should trump national rivalries on the Security Council. Ban also emphasized that united international pressure could help foster peace in Syria.
The international community has strongly criticized the Syrian government during its prolonged and violent conflict with opposition forces. On Wednesday, Amnesty International [advocacy website] published a report holding Syria responsible for crimes against humanity [JURIST report]. Last week UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] insisted that the Syrian government take steps to protect civilians [JURIST report] during armed conflicts, noting that recent violence in the country has often led to the death of civilians who were not notified that the conflict was approaching their area. Also last week AI accused government forces and rebels in Syria of summarily capturing and killing [JURIST report] opposition forces in violation of international humanitarian law. Syria has recently been facing international criticism for human rights violations. Ban recently expressed his concern that Syria could potentially use chemical weapons [JURIST report] in its ongoing conflict, even though the Syrian government has stated it would not use such weapons against its own citizens. Last Friday the UN Security Council extended the UN monitoring mission in Syria [JURIST report] for an additional 30 days. The mandate for the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) [official website], deployed as part of the peace plan of UN Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, received a unanimous vote for a 30-day extension in the Security Council.