UN urged to put pressure on Syria in defense of human rights

Members of Syrian security forces.
(Photo: FreedomHouse2/Flickr/CC)

The use of military action is intensifying in Syria, and the human rights and humanitarian conditions are deteriorating, warned the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS) in a joint statement. Despite the calls of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Arab League and a UN special envoy, Syrian authorities have failed to halt the use of excessive force and violence, according to these organizations.

Further, the Syrian authorities have not taken any serious steps towards implementing political reforms demanded by the people, adds the statement. The government has only assigned a committee to propose constitutional amendments and laws on political parties, associations and elections, an attitude that does not reflect the seriousness of popular demand for reform and political openness, remarked the ANND and CIVICUS.

While the humanitarian crisis worsens, Syrian authorities failed to take any measure to reform social and economic policies in line with international human rights standards, and in accordance with the recommendations it accepted at the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review session in October 2010, says the statement issued in Johannesburg on Friday 23.

As noted by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, in its report presented to the current UN Human Rights Council session, the government "has manifestly failed in its responsibility to protect the population; its forces have committed widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity, with the apparent knowledge and consent of the highest levels of the State. The grave and ongoing human rights crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic is the consequence of a combination of factors, including a State that has failed to respond to the legitimate political, economic and social demands of its people."

A proper and sustainable approach to the Syrian crisis must be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which can only be pursued through a democratic and transparent political process that reflects the choices of citizens, adds the statement.

In the light of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry and following the latest resolution adopted on by the UN Human Rights Council at its urgent session on Syria on 1 March 2012, the Arab NGO Network for Development and CIVICUS called on the UN Human Rights Council to urge Syrian authorities to:

■ Immediately cease the use of force and repression in all forms and release political prisoners.

■ Allow access by humanitarian groups and independent inquiry missions in all areas of Syria with no restrictions.

■ Take immediate measures to allow for safe areas for the operation of humanitarian agencies to support medical personnel, and supply medicines and equipment to treat the injured.

■ Take the proper measures to launch a political process and democratic dialogue mechanisms leading to human rights protection, peaceful transition of power and continued cessation of military and security actions and violence against citizens, with a longer term vision of establishing sustained democratic practice and reforming economic and social development policies and laws to ensure the economic and social rights of Syrian citizens.

■ Respect human rights and carry out immediate and tangible steps to implement the outcome recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review and the recommendations of other UN treaty bodies.

Stressing the importance of ensuring accountability and the need to hold to account those responsible for human rights violations and crimes against humanity and end impunity in Syria, the ANND and CIVICUS called upon UN Human Rights Council members to ensure that the information and evidence included in the Commission of Inquiry report is communicated to the members of the UN Security Council, in order to enable a potential referral to the International Criminal Court.

More information
ANND’s statement on the adoption of universal periodic review outcome of Syria: http://bit.ly/GS6euA

CIVICUS: http://bit.ly/GKPuny