States Urgently Call on Syria to Uphold the Human Rights of its People at its Universal Periodic Review
JOINT STATEMENT: The Center for Economic and Social Rights and the Arab NGO Network for Development
After several special sessions of the Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, Syria’s human rights conditions were once again reviewed on Friday, October 7, 2011 at the 12th Session of the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council amongst a highly polarized and politically-charged backdrop.
The Syrian people’s demands for dignity and democratic change stem from longstanding deprivations of basic economic and social rights, such as the right to work, the right to education, the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living, coupled with the systemic denial of political freedoms that have curtailed the Syrian people’s ability to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives, as highlighted in a joint submission by ANND and CESR in March 2011 presented to the Human Rights Council on the occasion of Syria’s UPR.
Rather than taking advantage of the UPR as an opportunity to begin a dialogue on the deteriorating human rights situation in the country—possibly amounting to crimes against humanity—the Syrian Delegation chose to instead shift blame to “imperialist powers” and “extremist terrorist groups” to explain the current turmoil in the country. The opening paragraph of the National Report—whose translation to the UN official languages was submitted too late for many state delegations to read in advance—makes strong accusations against the international media and “certain Western states” for spreading or supporting deliberate campaigns of “lies and allegations” against the State in order to weaken its political stability and national unity. The Syrian government’s long-standing neglect of the human rights aspirations of its own people was thus reflected during the October 7th UPR session.
At its review, the Syrian delegation restated the relevant articles of the Constitution with respect to promotion and protection of human rights, also noting several recent and imminent reforms. Some of these include the lifting of the State of Emergency, a forthcoming comprehensive national dialogue, the approval of municipal elections in December of this year as part of a new electoral law, the granting of citizenship to members of the Kurdish ethnic minority and the allowance of political parties and greater media freedoms Furthermore the delegation went on to state that with these reforms Syria would serve as a “model democracy not only for the region but for the world.”
Other State delegations reviewing Syria’s recent human rights record echoed many of civil society’s demands: to immediately cease the excessive and disproportionate use of force against protestors, particularly against women and children, without impunity; to grant the right to association and freedom of expression: to stop arbitrary arrests and free detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience; to investigate the human rights atrocities that have occurred in the country and bring to justice those culpable and grant reparations to victims: to listen to the demands of protestors and allow for inclusive dialogue and participation; and to respect the decisions of the Human Rights Council and authorize access into the country of the independent Commission of Inquiry set up during the HRC’s recent special session on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic.
ANND and CESR welcome the opportunity presented by the review of Syria under the UPR mechanism to consider the severe violations of human rights in the country, where the estimated death toll currently stands at 2900, according to latest figures by the OHCHR. Both organizations urge the government of Syria to accept the recommendations received at the UPR, and to dutifully implement and operationalize these as a sign of commitment to respecting, protecting and fulfilling the human rights of its people.
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For Arabic translation, please see attached document below