DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS GUARDIANS AND ALKARAMA UPR PRE-SESSION ON SYRIA, GENEVA, 7 OCTOBER 2016
This statement is delivered on behalf of Human Rights Guardians,
an NGO that monitors human rights violations in Syria and refugee countries and the Alkarama Foundation,
an NGO which documents cases of human rights violations in the Arab world
and submits them to the UN human rights mechanisms.
As you all know,
since the last UPR of Syria in October 2011
, there has been an escalation of the armed conflict due to the intervention of foreign actors as well as the increased fights between governmental forces and various non state armed groups, causing massive human rights violations all over the country.
My statement will address the two issues of the practice of torture and enforced disappearances in Syria.
The practice of torture
Follow-up to the first review
During the previous UPR,
five recommendations were made in relation to the practice of torture,
by Sweden, Spain, Norway, Switzerland and Korea.
Although they were accepted by the Syrian authorities, the latter affirmed that they were either “already implemented” or “in the process of being implemented”.
New developments since the first review
However, torture is today generalised
and systematic and is practiced both by governmental security services and state-sponsored militias called the Shabiha, in all State-controlled detention centres
but also in secret places of detention.
The practice of torture is
conducted under the direct orders
of the authorities and is part of the State’s policy
to instill fear and to intimidate
and terrorise the civilian population. It takes place in a context of total and absolute impunity as investigations have not been undertaken by the Syrian authorities and that the prosecution of torture perpetrators is conditional to the prior consent of the director of the security service and in practice never happens.
Moreover, conditions of detention are also particularly cruel,
inhumane and degrading. Syrian prisons are affected by a serious overcrowding and prisoners are exposed to chronic insufficient food and water adding to the spread of infectious diseases and lack of access to healthcare.
Such torture and cruel treatment is used against all detainees without exceptions, going from individuals first suspected of having participated in demonstrations or later of supporting the opposition or being members of non-state armed groups, journalists, human rights defenders,
defectors of security forces, but also women and children.
Lastly, the death in custody of detainees is extremely common, as highlighted in a report of the Syria Commission of Inquiry “Out of sight, out of mind”,
published in February 2016. Thousands of individuals have been killed as they were beaten to death or died as a result of severe injuries sustained during torture. Others have died because of general prison conditions and lack of medical care.
We therefore recommend Syria to:
- Put an end to the systematic practice of torture and guarantee the right to life of all detainees in accordance with international humanitarian law;
- Ensure that detention conditions are in conformity with international standards;
- Allow access to appropriate medical care to all torture victims and detainees, without any discrimination.
- The practice of enforced disappearances
- Follow-up to the first review
During the last UPR, four recommendations by Spain, Korea, Bolivia and the Czech Republic in relation to the practice enforced disappearances were accepted, but they were either considered as “already implemented”, “in the process of implementation” or “based on incorrect presumptions”.
- New developments since the first review
since the beginning of the conflict,
enforced disappearances have become a widespread and systematic practice
and constitute without any doubt,
within the meaning of the Rome Statute, a crime against humanity.
190 cases of disappearance are currently still outstanding
before the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary
Disappearances and of course only represent the tip of the iceberg,
since about tens of thousands of families remain without any news
about their relatives arrested or abducted by governmental security forces
and foreign militias,
who still face the systematic refusal of the authorities to provide any information on their fate and whereabouts.
Alkarama and Human Rights Guardians
have documented dozens of cases of enforced disappearances attributable
to these parties to the conflict and submitted them to the UN.
in most of these cases,
the authorities refused to cooperate with the Working Group and provide any information on their fate and whereabouts. Consequently,
the UN Group has called upon the Security Council to refer the situation
in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
We therefore recommend Syria to:
- Put an end to the systematic practice of enforced disappearances,
- including by foreign militias, clarify all cases of enforced disappearances and inform the victims’ families
- about the fate of their missing relatives;
- Collaborate effectively with the Working Group on
- Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and clarify all the cases submitted.