Paris – Statement by the Syrian Network for Human Rights:
On Tuesday, September 21, 2021, the Harmoon Center for Contemporary Studies held an online forum entitled ’The Assad Regime: Between Policy Variables and the Constants of Human Rights Condemnations’, hosting Fadel Abdul Ghany, Director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), Ayman Abu Hashem – politician and human rights defender, and lawyer Rouba al Hamoud, with the event managed and moderated by journalist Dima Wannous.
Discussions at the forum focused on changes seen in international policy towards the Syrian regime and attempts to normalize relations with it, even in tandem with the continued international and UN condemnation of human rights violations committed by the Syrian regime. The forum guests also discussed the recent reports issued by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry and Amnesty International, which confirmed that Syria is still an unsafe country for the return of refugees; the speakers also discussed the reasons that forced some refugees to return to Syria, in addition to the situation facing Palestinian-Syrians and the violations they have been subjected to, as well as the policy of the Syrian regime in continuing to carry out arrests, enforced disappearances and torture, even in the absence of military operations against it. The forum concluded with discussion of the grave violations committed by the other parties to the conflict in Syria.
Mr. Abdul Ghany began his address by stressing the steadfastness of the human rights position on the Syrian regime’s violations since March 2011, stressing that this subject shouldn’t be politically exploited. In this context, Mr. Abdul Ghany referred to three international reports issued recently on Syria by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, Amnesty International, and finally the global report from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines – Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC), which revealed that Syria is the only country in the world to have experienced continuous use of these weapons since 2012. Mr. Abdul Ghany also touched on the findings of the report on Syria, noting that the record of cluster munitions’ use in Syria in the year 2020 represented more than 52% of all cluster munition casualties worldwide during that year. He also emphasized the grave threat posed by the remnants of these munitions, citing the report’s findings that 44% of the total cluster munition casualties were children and 24% were female; this reaffirms that Syria is not a safe country for its residents, and a fortiori is very clearly not a safe place for the return of refugees or internally displaced persons. This point was also stressed by the latest report of the International Commission of Inquiry issued on September 14, 2021. Mr. Abdul Ghany also confirmed the findings of the latest Amnesty International report entitled “You’re going to your death”, that many violations are being practiced against refugees returning to Syrian regime-controlled areas, pointing out that those returning are routinely subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearance, extortion, and even cases of child rape. Mr. Abdul Ghany added that these same violations are routinely practiced against residents of Syria, not only against returnees. Mr. Abdul Ghany stated that these three reports carry a clear message to the international community, which is in essence:
– One cannot invoke a cessation of hostilities in Syria because the violations committed by the Syrian regime are not limited to bombardment and displacement, and the cessation of one certain type of violation does not mean the existence of safe areas.
– There is a continued need for the acceptance of asylum requests submitted by Syrians, and for urging refugees not to return, emphasizing that forcibly returning any refugee will expose him/ her to terrible violations, and that the state which returned him/ her should bear part of the legal and human rights-related responsibility for any subsequent violations.
– As long as the Assad regime and its brutal, repressive security apparatus remain in power, there can and will be no safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons.