We must not turn a blind eye to the continuous crackdown against protestors in Syria

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Open Letter by Arab Civil Society Organisations to HE, Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Foreign Minsters and Heads of Member States Delegations.

We, the undersigned (100) Civil Society organisations from (17) countries across the Arab World, appreciate the League of Arab States’ statement of 25th April 2011 which strongly supports the calls for freedom and democracy in the Arab world and condemns the use of violent force against protestors calling for these rights.

The ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt and Tunisia has demonstrated to the world that cries for basic freedom and democracy can no longer be silenced with bullets. Yet Arab leaders in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen continue to respond to calls for reform by using brutal force and weapons against unarmed civilians. We fear that the credibility of the League of Arab States, and the strength of leadership it has shown elsewhere, will be damaged irreparably unless the League condemns and calls for a swift end to violence wherever it occurs.

Since the 15th March 2011, over 800 peaceful demonstrators have been killed and 9,000 arrested in 16 Syrian cities. The lack of running water and electricity in towns such as Derra and Homs has left innocent civilians, including many women and children, without essential basic services. The humanitarian situation is worsening day by day.  As the suffering increases, the communications blackout imposed since 22nd April continues to prevent the Syrian people from calling for help.

On Friday the 29th of April the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva issued a resolution unequivocally condemning the use of lethal force against protestors and requesting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to immediately dispatch a mission to Syria to investigate all violations of human rights law committed with view to avoid impunity and ensure full accountability of the Syrian regime. However, over one week later, reports of the use of force and military artillery against civilians, collective punishment and large scale arbitrary arrest and detention in Syria continue.

We commend the League’s position to prevent mass atrocities in Libya; we now call on the League of Arab States to show consistent Arab Leadership in dealing with the situation in Syria. United Nation member states from around the world have now made clear that the situation in Syria is unacceptable; we urge the League of Arab States not to become isolated in its silence.

Furthermore, in solidarity with the Syrian’s people’s plight to gain their basic Human Rights and freedom, we call upon the Ministerial committee, meeting on the 15th of May 2011 to send a strong signal to the Syrian Leadership by:

– Condemning the excessive use of force against peaceful protestors in Syria.
– Acting in line with articles (8, 14, 18 and 36) of the Arab Charter for Human Rights which state that Arab Governments must ensure that their responsibility for the protection of civilians in Syria is upheld, against all other political interests.
– Calling on the Syrian authorities to abide by International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, including respect for freedom of association and expression and the provision of humanitarian assistance.
– Calling on the Syrian authorities to lift the communication blackout immediately and end the ban on journalists entering Syria.
– Finally, the league must support the work and findings of the International Investigative mission authorised by the UN Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/S-16/1 on Syria.

Arab states did not stand still when confronted with the legitimate aspirations and suffering of the people in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Arab governments must now show that this region is capable of protecting its own civilian populations during times of such acute need without hypocrisy and double standards. The eyes of the world are on us and history will judge the humanity of this region according to our reaction to events in Syria and elsewhere. We urge you to leave a record that we and our children are proud of.

As always, we believe that the League of Arab States has a vital and essential role to play and we urge the League of Arab States to demonstrate continued constructive leadership at this crucial time.

Sincerely,

• Cairo Institute For Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) – Egypt
• Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)  – Egypt
• Arab Programme for Human Rights Activists (APHRA)– Egypt
• Ani Centre for Human Rights and Developments – Egypt
• Egyptian Foundation for Refugees Rights – Egypt
• Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) – Egypt
• Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies – Egypt
• Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Support
• Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
• Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, Egypt
• Egyptian foundation for Advancement of the Childhood Conditions – Egypt
• Hesham Mubarak Law Center – Egypt
• Damascus Centre for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS)– Syria
• National Organization for Human Rights – Syria
• Arab Committee for freedom of expression – Syria
• Haitham Maleh Foundation For the Defense of Syrian Human Rights Defenders – Syria
• Human Rights First Society (HRFS) – Saudi Arabia
• Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights – Bahrain
• Al Bahrain Centre for Human Rights – Bahrain
• Social Democratic Forum (SDF) – Yemen
• Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms  – Yemen
• Human Rights & Democracy Media Center (SHAMS) – Palestine
• Palestinian Organization for Human Rights – Palestine
• Sudan Development Association – Sudan
• Al Khatim Centre for Enlightenment & Human Development (KACE) – Sudan
• Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO)
• The Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights – Algeria
• Permanent Peace Movement (includes 20 member organisations) – Lebanon
• Palestinian Human Rights Organization, Lebanon
• Iraqi Human Right Association in Denmark
• The Mauritanian  Association for Human Rights – Mauritania
• Kuwait Society for Human Rights for Human Rights – Kuwait
• Arab Coalition for Darfur (includes 56 member organisations) – Regional
• Arab Media Crisis Network (includes  20 members) – Regional

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