Marking a full year of violent suppression of anti-government protests in Syria, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng, and on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward Luck, released the following statement on March 15:
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We know from history that genocide and related crimes against humanity do not just arise spontaneously. They often take place in the context of civil war, when leaders commit such crimes to advance their goals of eliminating opposition or perceived enemies. In the civil conflict now raging in Syria, reporting by independent journalists and the United Nations leaves little doubt that conditions are being laid for a dramatic escalation of violence against civilians, possibly based on their membership in religious sects. Right now the majority Sunni population, perceived by the Alawite-dominated regime to be leading the opposition, are the primary victims, but if conditions deteriorate, other groups—including Druze, Christians, and Alawites themselves—could also be targeted.
Today, Syria is a country whose civilians are at risk of violence, with an estimated 1,000 people killed since mid-March, and countless others detained or missing. It is also a country whose regime allows little international access by foreign journalists, human rights groups, and aid groups and that offers few response options for those interested in stemming the potential for mass atrocities. As such, it provides a serious challenge for thinking about the limits and needs of a developing international civilian protection paradigm.