CIHRS calls upon the international community to work towards a peaceful solution that guarantees dignity and basic human rights for the Syrian people

In Arab Countries, United Nations Human Rights Councilby CIHRS

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) marks the fifth anniversary of the plight of the Syrian people by highlighting that its root causes and the reasons for its perpetuation are the almost five decades of oppression and denial of basic rights, equality and justice. Without addressing these causes there can be no sustainable solution.

Since 2011, communities in Syria have been fragmented, separated, and displaced by violence or the fear of violence. The intentional targeting of various ethnic and religious groups by all sides, including from foreign fighters, has exacerbated sectarian tensions on the ground. There is a serious risk that geographic divisions caused by fleeing communities will become entrenched, undermining Syrian unity and territorial integrity.

A political solution in Syria requires the adherence to international standards and guarantees for the legitimate demands of the Syrian people in democracy and equality. This includes ensuring accountability for perpetrators of international crime as an essential step for transitional justice and sustainable peace.

As the UN sponsored round of negotiation resumes in Geneva, the situation as described by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria (CoI)[1]is at its worst. According to the CoI”as the war is poised to enter its sixth year, its horrors are pervasive and ever-present. The lives of Syrian men, women and children have been ravaged as they suffer the destruction of their country and the devastation of the Syrian mosaic.”In its latest report, the Commission describes the country as fractured and at the verge of collapse; rampant insecurity, sieges, economic sanctions and continuous fighting have seriously impaired the ability of Syrian civilians to earn a living. In the meantime, grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law persist amid complete impunity, as civilians remain the primary victims of the conflict and subject to deliberate attacks by warring parties.

Time after time, the international community has failed Syrians by its inability to take timely action to stop the atrocities. In this regard, CIHRS acknowledges that momentum is being built towards a political solution, which is the only mean to counter the ongoing violence and violent extremism in Syria and the region as a whole. However, as support is needed for the implementation of the Geneva communiqué of 2012, recently endorsed by UNSC resolution 2254 (2015), such implementation must ensure certain guarantees for the sake of its credibility, sustainability, and success.

Guarantees to ensure the implementation and continuation of the current cease-fire agreement, including serious and timely action in response to breaches must be put in place. We call upon all states to do whatever is necessary to ensure that warring parties respect the cease-fire, and work toward expanding it to larger areas in Syria. The cease-fire needs to be accompanied by ensuring access of humanitarian aid to all besieged and hard to reach areas, that humanitarian space is respected, and humanitarian workers are protected. The immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained, in particular human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists, is crucial to ensure that progress is being felt by Syrians on the ground.

Alleged crimes against humanity committed by regime forces and by ISIS, as well as other alleged international crimes committed by all parties, need to be deterred. Accountability remains a key element to ensure the sustainability of the political process, and the safety net in case of its failure. The international community must enhance efforts for referring the situation in Syria to international justice mechanisms, and if needed establish an ad hoc tribunal. They should also use their domestic courts for investigation and prosecutions of crimes committed in Syria pursuant to their obligations under Common Article 1 of the Four Geneva Conventions. International assistance in Syria should be targeted towards building the capacity of local civil society and assisting the upcoming transitional government bodies to activate domestic jurisdiction whenever possible.

The political process has to be Syrian led, and Syrian owned not only through slogans and official speeches. The full involvement of and consultation with Syrian civil society in all steps of the process is essential. All parties involved in the talks should also ensure women’s representation at all levels. A participatory approach that encompasses civil society actors provides guarantees for the implementation of any agreement reached on the ground.

Finally, in the ongoing efforts to counter violent extremism, all parties should abide by humanitarian law. Refraining from deliberate and/or unwarranted targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure is needed to achieve an end to the cycle of violence. UN member states should protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees according to relevant international law, while continuing to lay the grounds for their safe and voluntary return to their homes and communities.

Confronting rising violent extremism by diminishing respect for humanitarian and human rights law is counterproductive and irresponsible. This imminent risk plaguing our region and the world is bred and fueled by consecutive decades of disregard for human life, dignity and rights.

The United Nations Secretary General, recently called upon all actors to make “humanity the central driver of {their}) decision-making and action.”He declared: “We can close the gap between the world that is and the world that should be.

This fifth year of the conflict could be a year of opportunity and hope not only for the Syrian people, but also for the people of the region and the world, who have witnessed the horror in Syria and stood in solidarity with the plight of its people. For this hope to persist, decision makers need to finally make “humanity” the central driving force for their actions.

CIHRS has also marked the fifth anniversary of the conflict yesterday by delivering an oral intervention before the UN Human Rights Council. The intervention focused on the need to ensure accountability and redress for victims of violation through international mechanisms.It has also called upon the Council to hold high level panels to hear victims’ testimonials. It further requested the CoI to document violations committed by foreign military forces in Syria.


[1]http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoISyria/A-HRC-31-68.pdf

The text of the oral intervention:

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