New York, September 25, 2019: The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) participated in an event on the sidelines of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, entitled “Justice and Accountability in Syria”, sponsored by the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
The session was chaired by Joel Rayburn, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant Affairs and Special Envoy to Syria, with the participation of James Jeffrey the US Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL; HE Matthijs van Der Plas, the Netherlands’ Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs; the UK’s Envoy to Syria Dr. Martin Longden; Ambassador François Sénémaud the Representative of the French President and Envoy to Syria, and Germany’s Susanne Baumann, Commissioner and Head of the Federal Foreign Office’s Directorate-General for International Order, the United Nations and Arms Control.
Representatives of several Syrian civil society organizations, including Mr. Raed al Saleh, Head of the Syrian Civil Defense Organization better known as ‘the White Helmets’; Ms. Raja al Talli, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Center for Civil Society and Democracy; Mr. Mohammed al Abdullah, Executive Director of the Syrian Justice and Accountability Center; Amina Khawlani, Co-Founder of Families for Freedom Organization, and Mr. Wael Sawah Executive Director of the Pro-Justice Organization, also participated in the event.
The session opened at 1:30 am with an exhibition of paintings commissioned by the SNHR, which includes paintings of 35 of the Syrian citizens forcibly disappeared at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria. Along with the portraits of the disappeared are thumbnail descriptions providing the most notable information about each individual and their arrest; the exhibition aims to humanize and focus on the unique attributes of each of the forcibly disappeared people rather than portraying them as an indistinguishable mass, as well as to commemorate the victims of enforced disappearance in Syria at the hands of all parties to the conflict, especially by the Syrian regime which is responsible for around 86 percent of the total number of enforced disappearances there. The SNHR will display these paintings at several events in various capitals around the world.
Mr. Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of SNHR, said in his speech at the event that civilized states should not only respect the Geneva Conventions but also take the necessary steps to demonstrate this respect. Therefore, he noted, even if states are not participating in international or internal armed conflict, they have obligations to protect civilians and civilian objects in Syria. He stressed that while the political and economic sanctions that have been implemented to date by some countries against the Syrian regime are a step towards meeting these commitments, they are not enough by themselves, emphasizing that more severe actions must be taken to ensure the Syrian regime’s commitment to implementing the Geneva Conventions.
Abdul Ghany added that in light of the Security Council’s continued failure to deal effectively with the Syrian situation, there is a need for a civilized alliance which excludes and transcends Russia and China to intervene to protect civilians in Syria and impose a safe zone in northwestern Syria protected from the aerial bombardment like that in northeast Syria, noting that aerial bombardment is the cause of about 75 percent of the total deaths and of about 85 percent of the total destruction in Syria.