Syria is currently experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, and access to medicines for emergency care, pain control, and palliative care remains shockingly restricted in the country. Addressing the dire need for improved access to medicines in Syria from an international law compliance and accountability perspective, this article highlights four complementary legal frameworks: international human rights law, international drug control law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law. It arrives at two central conclusions. First, all four bodies of law hold clear potential in terms of regulatory—hence compliance—and accountability mechanisms for improving access to medicines in times of conflict, but they are too weak on their own account. Second, the potential for on-the-ground change lies in the mutual reinforcement of these four legal frameworks. This reinforcement, however, remains rhetorical and far from practical. Finally, within this complex picture of complementary international legal frameworks, the article proposes concrete recommendations for a more integrated and mutually reinforcing interpretation and implementation of these areas of law to foster better access to medicines in Syria and elsewhere.
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