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Arab governments and the Arab League must absolve themselves of OIC efforts to shield Syria from accountability

In Arab Countries, League of Arab States by CIHRS

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The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, the Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedom and Human Rights in Syria, and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, strongly condemn the shameful stance taken by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC),  during the preparatory meeting for the UN Human Rights Council Special Session to be held tomorrow, convened to examine measures and recommendations to be adopted by the Council to put an end to the massacres and brutal crackdown by the Syrian authorities against peaceful popular protests calling for freedom and an end to the repressive police state in Syria. Thus far, some 500 people have been killed and thousands injured, detained, or subjected to involuntary disappearance.

The member states who called the Special Session, which includes the United States, European states, and several Latin American and African states, proposed a resolution upholding the right of Syrians to life, safety, and personal security, as well as their right to freely express their opinions and exercise their rights to assembly and peaceful protest. The draft resolution strongly condemns the use of lethal force by the Syrian authorities to suppress the peaceful protests and recommends that the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights send an international fact-finding mission to investigate the widespread killing of demonstrators.

In turn, the OIC submitted an amended resolution which not only ignores the well-recognized human rights on which the original resolution was based, but attempts to give immunity to the Syrian authorities from any form of accountability for the massacres, even moral accountability, using the oft-heard pretexts of sovereignty and the inviolability of domestic matters. The OIC resolution contains a general condemnation of what it describes as killings, attacks on property, and violence, effectively suggesting that the Syrian people, or the demonstrators at the very least, bear the responsibility for these acts. The OIC rejected the initiative to send an international fact-finding mission unless it is invited by the Syrian government, and proposed instead an internal investigation conducted by what it termed “a national inquiries commission,” without specifying how any national commission would be able to conduct its work independently given the enormous pressure and brutal repression exercised by the Syrian regime against its citizens, as well as the lack of freedom of independent association and expression in the country.

The undersigned organizations wholly denounce the OIC’s declared stance, which aims to shield the Syrian regime not only from accountability for its crimes, but even from criticism and moral condemnation. We call on the member states of the Arab League and its General Secretariat to drop all recommendations submitted by the OIC and publicly reject such proposals, which themselves constitute an additional crime against the Syrian people and an insult to the blood of martyrs of democratic uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain.

On April 26, the General Secretariat of the Arab League explicitly condemned the use of live ammunition against demonstrators and protesters in several Arab states, and indeed endorsed the claims of freedom and democracy called for by Arab peoples, saying that such demands should be supported instead of bullets being fired against those making the claims. The General Secretariat also declared its intention to put the issue of the suppression of demonstrations with live ammunition on the agenda of the next meeting of Arab foreign ministers, scheduled for May 8.

The undersigned organizations believe that for the sake of its credibility, the General Secretariat of the Arab League and the Arab group of states within the UN must not only reject the draft resolution proposed by the OIC, but must also throw their support behind a campaign launched by NGOs to block Syria’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in the vote scheduled for next month. Syria’s inclusion in the Council would not only be a breach of the norms used in the selection of members of the Council, but at the present time, it would be tantamount to a reward for the Syrian regime for the crackdown and massacres committed against its people.

The undersigned human rights organizations hope that the Egyptian and Tunisian governments in particular will take leadership in this regard, encouraging Arab states and the General Secretariat of the Arab League to adopt stances more in keeping with the aspirations of the Syrian people and all the region’s peoples for democratic transition and respect for human rights.

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