Joint Call by Civil Society for a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council to consider the findings of the Syrian Commission of Inquiry and ensure accountability

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Your Excellency,


As civil society organizations from around the world we urgently call on the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) to convene a special session on Syria immediately after the release of the report of the HRC International Commission of Inquiry on Syria (the Commission of Inquiry), which is due before the end of November 2011.  We also call on the HRC to transmit the findings of the Commission of Inquiry to the UN Security Council.  If the Commission of Inquiry finds that crimes under international law, including crimes against humanity, appear to have been committed by the Syrian government, we call on the HRC to urge the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).


The previous HRC Fact Finding Mission onSyriafound evidence indicating that crimes under international law, including crimes against humanity, and other grave violations of human rights have been committed by the government ofSyriain the context of largely peaceful pro-democracy protests.  Should the Commission of Inquiry confirm these findings, it is incumbent on UN member states to ensure:


  • The transmission by the HRC of the Commission of Inquiry’s findings to all relevant UN bodies without delay, including the General Assembly and the Security Council;


  • The immediate referral by the UN Security Council of potential crimes under international law within the jurisdiction of the ICC, including crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian government, to the ICC Prosecutor;


It is also incumbent on UN member states to ensure:


  • The immediate cooperation ofSyriawith humanitarian organizations, including granting them full access to its territory;


  • The urgent deployment of a human rights monitoring presence insideSyria;


  • An urgent response to credible reports of reprisals by Syrian authorities against human rights defenders and those who cooperate and provide information to the Commission of Inquiry and other UN human rights mechanisms;


  • Action by all relevant UN bodies to ensure the protection of Syrian refugees and asylum seekers and provide for their humanitarian needs;


  • The immediate cooperation ofSyriawith the HRC Commission of Inquiry.


According to the UN, since the beginning of protests inSyriamore than 3500 individuals have been killed, amongst whom were at least 187 children.  The number of killed may be much higher.  In spite of the announcement on 5 November of the release of 553 detainees by the Syrian government, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said on 8 November that “tens of thousands remain in detention and dozens continue to be arbitrarily arrested everyday” and that “Syrian troops continue to use tanks and heavy weaponry to mount attacks on residential areas in the city of Homs.”  Cities such asHoms, Deraa,Hama, Idlib and Deir El- Zour remain under complete military siege.


In August, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights presented the findings of the Fact Finding Mission on Syriaestablished by the HRC. This Fact Finding Mission concluded that crimes against humanity appear to have been committed by the Syrian government. The High Commissioner recommended that the UN Security Council refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the ICC.  To date, the UN Security Council has failed to heed this request or pass a resolution aimed at providing protection for victims of human rights violations in Syria.   We are deeply troubled by this inaction, and the reluctance of some members of the UN Security Council to support efforts to pass a resolution intended to ensure accountability for international crimes committed by the Syrian government.


On 4 October, the UN Security Council failed to adopt draft resolution S/2011/612 which would have required the Syrian authorities, inter alia, to cease all violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians. The Security Council failed to do so because of a veto by theRussian FederationandChina.  Brazil,India,LebanonandSouth Africaabstained from the vote.


On 2 November, the Syrian government stated its intention to abide by the conditions of the Roadmap created by the League of Arab States (Arab League) concerning the situation inSyria.   This Roadmap calls for a halt to all violence against civilians and a withdrawal of the government’s military presence from cities.  Despite this, the Syrian government has not halted its widespread and systematic attacks on civilians or withdrawn its military presence from cities. On the contrary, reports suggest that attacks against civilians by government forces have intensified in some areas ofSyriasince 2 November, with the city ofHoms, in particular, coming under intense siege by the military resulting in numerous civilian casualties.  According to human rights groups, more than 370 Syrians have been killed since 2 November.  Prolonged violence by the Syrian authorities is resulting in a general deterioration of security within the country.


On the 20November, the Arab League, in an official statement, rejected the amendments of the Syrian government to a proposed Arab League led monitoring mission to Syria, determining that the amendments proposed by Syria “changed the very nature of the mandate of the monitoring mission of the LAS [Arab League] which is charged with achieving the implementation of the road map.”


This continuing unwillingness of the Syrian authorities to end attacks against civilians  and fully cooperate with the Arab League underlines the need for the United Nations to take decisive action to ensure accountability for crimes committed in Syria, and provide immediate protection for the victims of these crimes.


A Special Session onSyriashould back the efforts of the Arab League to ensure an end to all acts of violence against civilians, the release of all political prisoners, the removal of the Syrian military from populated areas, and access toSyriaby independent observers and international media.


We call on those states that have thus far opposed or failed to fully back international action to end crimes under international law and other grave violations of human rights in Syria and bring those responsible for these crimes  to justice,  now to support action by the HRC to ensure such accountability and to provide protection to victims and witnesses of such crimes, including by supporting a resolution at the HRC that urges the Security Council  to refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the ICC if the Commission of Inquiry finds evidence of crimes under international law, including crimes against humanity.


We particularly call on Brazil, India and South Africa, in light of their own histories of struggle for democratic governance, to speak out strongly and clearly against the brutal repression that is continuing in Syria and to ensure that all alleged crimes under international law are investigated with a view to ensuring that those who perpetrate such crimes are held accountable.




  • Advocates for Public InterestLaw,South Korea
  • African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  • African Democracy Forum (ADF)
  • AlNadimCenterfor Treatment and Psychological Rehabilitation for Victims of Violence,Egypt
  • Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights
  • AlKarama,Switzerland
  • Al-Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment & Human Development,Sudan
  • Amnesty International
  • Arab Coalition forDarfur
  • Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Support
  • Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
  • Arab Program for Human Rights Activists
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  • Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC),Hong Kong,China
  • Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression,Egypt
  • BahrainCenterfor Human Rights (BCHR)
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • CambodianCenterfor Human Rights,Cambodia
  • CIVICUS: WorldAlliancefor Citizen Participation
  • Collectif des Familles de Disparus en Algérie
  • Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedom and Human Rights,Syria
  • Community Action Network (ICMICA-Malaysia),Malaysia
  • ConectasDireitos Humanos,Brazil
  • East and Horn ofAfricaHuman Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP)
  • Egyptian Foundation for Advancement of the Childhood Condition
  • Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  • EmiratesCenterfor Human Rights, UAE
  • Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)
  • Franciscans International,Switzerland
  • Freedom Against CensorshipThailand(FACT),Thailand
  • HabiCenterfor Environmental Rights,Egypt
  • Hisham Mubarak Law Center,Egypt
  • Home for the Victims ofTorture,Sri Lanka
  • Human Rights FirstSociety,Saudi Arabia
  • Human Rights Organization inSyria(MAF)
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  • Instance Marocaine des Droits Humains
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • Iraqi Human Rights Organization,Denmark
  • Joint Committee for Migrants inKorea,South Korea
  • Journalists for Human Rights (JHR),Sudan
  • Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF),Thailand
  • Korean House for InternationalSolidarity,South Korea
  • Kurdish Committee for Human Rights-Rased,Syria
  • Kurdish organization for the defense of human rights and public freedoms in Syria (DAD)
  • Lawyers for Justice inLibya
  • LBH Masyarakat (Community Legal Aid Institute),Indonesia
  • Les Democrates Syriens
  • MINBYUN – Lawyers for a DemocraticSociety,South Korea
  • National Organization for Human Rights,Syria
  • Network for Glocal Activism,South Korea
  • Palestinian Human Rights Organization,Lebanon
  • SARANGBANG Group for Human Rights,South Korea
  • Shabab:YouthCenterfor CulturalChange,Sudan
  • Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF),Yemen
  • SudanSocial Development Organization (SUDO)
  • The Arab Organization for Human Rights,Syria
  • The Democracy Coalition Project (DCP),United States
  • The May 18 MemorialFoundation,South Korea
  • The Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations
    Committed by theMoroccanState
  • Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights
  • West AfricaHuman Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN)
  • World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
  • YemeniCenterfor Transitional Justice
  • Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms

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