CIVICUS intervention during the 16th SPECIAL SESSION on the Situation of Human Rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

Human Rights Council

16th SPECIAL SESSION on the Situation of Human Rights in the Syrian Arab Republic


29 April 2011

Mr. President,

The recent developments in the Arab region and the peaceful people’s revolutions, including in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, reflect the climax of people’s peaceful resistance and struggle against corruption, and the violation of their political as well as economic and social rights. What we are witnessing is the result of the escalation of violations of human rights which are guaranteed by the core international human rights treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Citizens of the region are in need of protection and promotion of their rights, and they are seeking to regain their human dignity.

Moreover, the world is witnessing gross and systematic human rights violations committed by the governments as the security forces continue to use force against peaceful protests of unarmed citizens. The international community through the United Nations should immediately take action with its core responsibility to use all appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means to stop violence against civilians in the above mentioned Arab countries.

In this respect, CIVICUS welcomes this special session, urging all the UN member states to endorse their “Responsibility to Protect” commitment without any further delay. They should support the people of the region in their call for the creation of a new governance model that establishes a new social contract (pact) securing solid rights-based foundations for the citizen- state relation, active participation in democratic governance that overcomes corruption and nepotism and establishes freedom, transparency and accountability, as well as a re-visited social and economic model that services people’s rights.

The session today is the right space to reiterate the UN member states’ commitment to their obligations to respect, protect and fulfill their citizen’s freedom of assembly and association, to freely express their opinions through non-violent rallies and demonstrations, and provide protection for human rights defenders. It is an occasion to remind states of their obligations under article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections”.

While the last HRC special session successfully suspended the HRC membership of Libya, we, as civil society organizations believe, this special session must be taken as an opportunity to postpone the envisaged candidacy of Syria, as Syria announced its intention to seek membership for the term 2012 to 2014.

We further urge the Council:

  • To dispatch immediately an international mission of inquiry to collect relevant facts and document violations of international human rights law happening in Syria.
  • To establish a mandate of the special procedures with regards to the human rights violations taking place  in Syria
  • To call for the immediate release of people arbitrarily detained during the ongoing protests, and assert that there should be no reprisals against people who have taken part in demonstrations.
  • To condemn restrictions which undermine access to information and violate freedom of expression, such as the blocking of internet services and telecommunications, and restrictions against media professionals.
  • To address the Syrian situation at its upcoming 17th regular session and during the Universal Periodic Review of Syria in October 2011.

Thank you for your attention


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