To: The Syrian negotiating parties
The International Syria Support Group (ISSG)
The United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura and his team
We, the signatories to this letter, are Syrian organizations working on human rights documentation, accountability, and transitional justice in Syria. We reiterate our commitment to the principles of justice, comprehensive accountability, and absolute support for all victims in Syria and their rightful demands for remedy and justice. As such, we propose the following minimum demands — fully aware that the demands of the Syrian people for freedom and justice go beyond what we set out in this letter — which we believe are necessary and cannot be overlooked in the transition period or in any deal that aims to establish peace and stability in Syria. These demands are addressed to the Syrian negotiating parties, to the special UN envoy Staffan de Mistura and his team, and to the States and institutions within the ISSG sponsoring the negotiating process:
1. On the issue of detainees:
a. Allow immediate and unconditional access for any independent, impartial, and neutral organization that enjoys international credibility to inspect and visit all prisons and detention facilities in Syria, including informal centers run by Syrian government security services or armed opposition factions; and, issue a full and official list of prisoners’ names to determine the persons still held in custody by all parties to the conflict, in preparation for creating a catalog of missing persons who do not appear on any prisoner list.
b. The parties to the conflict shall release all individuals arbitrarily detained on political, ideological, religious or sectarian grounds within six months after the start of the peace negotiations. This will act as an initial confidence-building measure to comprehensively resolving the issue of detainees in Syria.
2. On the issue of fact-finding: The transition body formed as a result of the negotiations shall establish a national independent commission of inquiry, composed of a combination of respected international figures and independent, credible Syrian figures who represent all political, ethnic, religious, and sectarian backgrounds in Syria but who were not involved in either the fighting or the political process. The commission shall be sponsored by the United Nations, enjoy the support of the States and stakeholders sponsoring the negotiations, and be entrusted with the task of documenting war crimes, serious violations of international human rights law, and crimes against humanity committed by all parties to the conflict in Syria following the 2011 uprising. The commission shall be composed of committees with the power to make recommendations on issues such as the establishment of a national mechanism for opening mass graves and exhuming and identifying bodies and delivering them to families. The Commission shall be granted full access to all regions of Syria within the control of the negotiating parties, as well as access to examine all official records and interview witnesses and security officials. The Committee shall submit an initial report to the Syrian people and the United Nations within the first year of the signing of the peace agreement in Syria.