Statement on current human rights situation in Syria

Statement on the current human rights situation in Syria 

On 17th July, Human Rights Now issued a statement on the current human right situation in Syria.

Statement 

Since the Assad administration and anti government forces initiated fighting, more than 10,000 deaths in Syria have been reported. (1) Furthermore, on May 25th this year, a massacre occurred in the town of Haula, located in central Syria, in which 108 people including 49 children and 34 women were killed according to estimates by the United Nations. (2) Subsequently, civilian deaths have continued to increase. For example, in June, another murder occurred in Haffa (3), a town in the northeast, and Kubeiru (4), a village in central Syria. The chain of violence in Syria is such that no one can stop it, and UN officials have recognized the Syrian situation as a civil war (5).

Human Rights Now, a Tokyo based international human rights NGO, expresses its grave concern over the situation in Syria, and demands that the Syrian government and international community do the following:

1. Implement an immediate ceasefire
On March 25 this year, Special Envoy Kofi Annan proposed a six-point proposal requiring the cessation of conflict between the Syrian government and anti government forces, which was officially accepted by the Syrian government. Security Council in Resolution 2042, adopted on April15th, calls upon the Syrian government to implement the six-point proposal by making it an obligation of the Syrian government under international law. However, a ceasefire has not yet been achieved. 
Human Rights Now urges the Syrian government to immediately implement a ceasefire.

2. Stop attacks upon civilians
As mentioned above, the current situation in Syria has been regarded as a civil war. However, even during conflicts, indiscriminate attacks on civilians are not tolerated, and combatants and non combatants must be strictly distinguished. This is a basic obligation under international humanitarian law which is clearly stipulated in the Geneva Conventions, to which Syria is a party. Also, international human rights law should not be violated, even in wartime. Protecting citizens’ life and integrity is a basic obligation under international human rights law.

However, as in Haula, many civilians including women and children have been killed. In a resolution adopted on June 1st this year, the UN Human Rights Council expressed its grave concern over human rights violations committed by the Syrian government.

Human Rights Now urges the Syrian government to immediately cease attacks on civilians in conformity with its obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law. It also urges all participants in military action to respect international human rights and humanitarian law.

3. Arms embargo against the Syrian government by the international community
Providing weapons worsens a conflict. In the current situation, where the number of civilian deaths continues to increase, providing weapons will worsen human rights violations. Human Rights Now urges all UN member states, as well as businesses inthe private sector to immediately stop providing all weapons, ammunition, equipment, training, and personnel for military, security,and police purposes.

4. Referral to the International Criminal Court to ensure accountability for crimes against humanity

There are strong grounds to allege that war crimes and serious human rights violations, which constitute crimes against humanity, may have been committed in Syria. For instance, as described above, many civilians, including women and children, were killed in Haula, many strongly suspect that this incident falls under the scope of crimes against humanity as defined by the International Criminal Court. Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has indicated that the murders in Haula can be regarded as crimes against humanity.

Prosecution is required to end impunity and ensure accountability for human rights violations in Syria (including for the Haula massacre). Human Rights Now requests the UN Security Council to refer Syria’s case to the International Criminal Court.

Statement on the Human Rights Situation in Syria (PDF)