The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] on Wednesday approved a joint resolution [text, PDF] authorizing the limited use of force against Syria. In a 10-7 vote, the committee reasoned that Syria was in violation of international law, such as the UN Charter [materials], the Geneva Conventions and the Protocol to the Hague Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare [texts, PDF]. The committee determined that Syria employed chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction against its own citizens thereby causing more than 100,000 death in the last two years. The resolution authorizes President Barack Obama [official website] to use force in a limited and specified manner. The authorization is to last for 60 days with the possibility of an extension determined by the US president. The resolution will be presented to the Senate for approval next week before it goes to the House of Representatives [official websites].
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. Earlier this week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] questioned the legality [JURIST report] of the US plan to strike Syria. Ban stated that the use of force is lawful only in two very limited circumstances: (1) when used in self-defense according to Article 51 [text] of the UN charter; or (2) when the UN Security Council (UNSC) [official website] approves such action. Last month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] condemned [JURIST report] the reported chemical weapon attacks that killed hundreds in the Ghouta region of Damascus as a "serious escalation" in the fight between Syria's government and rebel forces. Also last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that nine apparent ballistic missile attacks on populated areas have killed at least 215 citizens including 100 children. In July the Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria urged the international community [JURIST report] to bring peace to the country. In May Pillay expressed concern [JURIST report] regarding reports that described the slaying of entire Syrian families and shelling of communities, as well as the targeted strikes by Syrian armed forces on hospitals and schools.