Efforts to Ensure Accountability for Crimes in Yemen and Syria Take Center Stage at the United Nations Human Rights Council

In International Advocacy Program, Statements and Position Papers, United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

The 33rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council which ended on September 30th,  saw the passage of a resolution to UN HRCestablish a group of UN experts to monitor ongoing grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Yemen.  This group will report back to the Council at its 34th and 36th sessions.   While this outcome will not provide a full fledged international investigation into alleged war crimes in Yemen, as called for by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and civil society, it does provide a basis for determining if war crimes and other grave violations of international law are being carried out in Yemen and identifying parties to the conflict responsible for any such crimes.  Saudi Arabia was forced to allow the creation of this expert monitoring group to ensure the withdrawal of a resolution put forward by the EU that would have set up a more robust international investigation,

A resolution on Syria during this session established a high level panel at the next session of the Council that will allow Syrians and eye-witnesses to give testimony before the United Nations on crimes being committed in the country with a view towards ensuring accountability.

During this Council session, CIHRS addressed a number of human rights issues in the MENA region, including the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and other countries in the region.

Jointly with 7 Palestinian partners, CIHRS delivered an intervention at the 33rd HRC session and organized a side event to remind the council and the international community that the Palestinian Human Rights Defenders pursuing accountability for grave crimes and working to end the prolonged occupation have been facing serious attacks, including death threats. The organizations urged the council and the international community to condemn these threats and ensure they are properly investigated.  CIHRS also hosted a student delegation from the Human Rights Clinic at Al Quds University & Community Action Center in Jerusalem (CAC) during an educational visit with the purpose of observing the ongoing HRC session and participating in a training session on international human rights mechanisms carried out by CIHRS UN advocacy staff. CIHRS created the activity program for the delegation’s visit, set meetings and facilitated access to the various UN premises.

On Syria, in an intervention delivered in collaboration with 4 Syrian organizations, CIHRS called on countries to dedicate resources to begin opening preliminary national-level investigations into crimes in Syria and to formulate a list of individuals suspected of committing crimes in Syria that can be used to ensure accountability. The intervention further called for the council to adopt a resolution focusing on accountability, it also called for the CoI to conduct a study on how to strengthen the use of national mechanisms of accountability and the use of universal jurisdiction by third party states in relation to crimes committed in Syria. Also, in a letter sent to the UK Secretary of State, CIHRS urged the UK government to support a resolution at the Council’s ongoing session to create a high level panel that would feature Syrian voices from the ground and witness testimony to crimes to ensure that a victim oriented approach is at the forefront of the work of the Council.

Moreover, on Yemen, CIHRS emphasized the need for an international investigation mechanism in Yemen. This was addressed in an intervention as well as a side event on Yemen featuring partner organizations.

On Egypt, Bahey Eldin Hassan, Director of CIHRS, delivered an intervention two days after a court ruling was issued in Egypt to freeze his personal assets, CIHRS’s, and the assets of other human right defenders and centers.  This asset freeze is part of the systematic plan to “eradicate” the human rights movement in Egypt by the Egyptian government. Thus, the intervention warned that if the HRC remained silent in face of the suppression of Egyptian human rights organizations and the targeting of rights defenders it will only encourage other countries to follow in a similar manner and target rights defenders elsewhere. In another intervention delivered by CIHRS calling on Egypt to drop all charges against human rights defenders and organizations in the country.

Furthermore, in an intervention on Libya, CIHRS demanded that the Council needs to ensure that concrete steps are taken towards ensuring accountability and continued independent international investigations into all major IHL and IHRL violations in Libya.

Finally, jointly with local and international partners, CIHRS co-sponsored two side events on Bahrain, Iraq and the Gulf region. The first event addressed the need for appointing a Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for the protection of journalists. The Side event also addressed the need for referring cases of journalists killed and attacked in Syria and Iraq to the International Criminal Court. The second event stressed the need for the Council to take immediate action to stop the reprisals and harassments of HRDs in the Gulf region and other neighbouring countries.

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