On Thursday, 11 March 2021, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the Syrian conflict – 10 years after the uprising, by a large majority of votes; 568 for, 79 against, and 37 abstentions. In the resolution, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) reminded the international community of the gravity and magnitude of human rights violations in Syria, perpetrated by all parties to the conflict, including killings, detention, enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment, sexual violence and rape, displacement, ethnic cleansing, persecution of minorities, and a dire humanitarian crisis.
MEPs called on the Syrian regime to immediately release the 130,000 political prisoners detained, including women, men and children forcibly disappeared. In this respect, MEPs urged the European Union (EU) and Member States to facilitate the creation of an independent mechanism with an international mandate and a victim-led approach to locate the missing or their remains, including those found in mass graves. This call is based on the recommendation made by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria in its March 2021 report, echoed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the High Representative/Vice-President (HR/VP) Joseph Borrell, and Syrian civil society.
“Arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance continue to be among the most urgent challenges to human rights in Syria with tens of thousands detained in prisons, primarily by the Syrian government. The release of detainees and the disclosure of the fate and location of those forcibly disappeared in Syria are urgent priorities for Syrians and Syrian civil society. It is crucial to realizing justice, accountability, and redress for victims and their families,” said Elizabeth Rghebi, Levant Researcher at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).
The resolution reaffirms the need for accountability in the Syrian conflict, as impunity allows for the continued perpetration of atrocities. It calls for international crimes to be prosecuted, including by EU Member States. MEPs urged all EU Member States to fully cooperate in the fight against impunity, including within the framework of the EU Action Plan on Impunity. The resolution welcomed European efforts in this regard, particularly those led by the Netherlands to launch legal proceedings against Syria at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for its violation of the UN Convention against Torture.
In addition, the resolution emphasizes that Syria remains unsafe for refugee return, and calls on EU Member States to refrain from depriving Syrian refugees of their protected status. MEPs urged the EU and Member States to continue supporting and providing humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees and IDPs.
Lastly, and in order to ensure principled humanitarian assistance to Syria in line with human rights standards, the resolution called on the HR/VP Borrell to develop a robust human rights due diligence policy for the EU’s potential involvement in the reconstruction process, in cooperation with Syrian civil society.
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