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Joint Letter from Syrian Civil Society Organisations and Victims’ Groups

Request Arabic interpretation during the formal briefing at the Human Rights Committee 141st session – Review of the Syrian Arab Republic

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A general view during of the Presentation of the report on the situation in Syria at the Twenty-Seventh session of the Human Rights Council. 16 September 2014. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

We, the undersigned Syrian civil society organisations (CSOs) and victims’ groups, formally request that the Human Rights Committee provide Arabic interpretation during the formal briefing with the Syrian civil society at the 141st session review by the Committee of the Syrian Arab Republic. The right to participation and accessibility to UN Treaty Bodies are inseparable from the mandate of the Human Rights Committee; unfortunately, both the Committee’s obligations and the fundamental rights of those taking part in the official UN processes will not be met without Arabic interpretation during the briefing with Syrian civil society.

The Human Rights Committee will hold the 141st session from July 1st to August 2nd 2024, where it will review the Syrian Arab Republic’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Syrian Arab Republic’s lack of cooperation has affected the Committee’s work as it has not been able to adequately assess Syria’s compliance and implementation of the ICCPR. The formal briefing taking place in 2024 is a major opportunity for the Committee to hear from Syrian SCOs and victims’ groups, filling the human rights and legislative gap by providing unique expertise and knowledge on the state of human rights in Syria and ensuring accountability for Syria’s breach of obligations under the ICCPR.

The Syrian Arab Republic has never adequately engaged in the review process of the Committee since its beginnings and has notably lacked crucial cooperation for the past 17 years. Indeed, there has not been any State party report from the Syrian Arab Republic between 2004 and 2021. Syria has, therefore, accumulated an almost unprecedented delay in its obligations to the Committee’s review and the implementation of those obligations. The last State party report shared in 2021 was due in 2009. We note that the lack of collaboration of Syria with the Committee’s procedures has exacerbated impunity for violations of the ICCPR, with grave consequences for human rights standards in the country.

It is key to note that since the peaceful uprising of 2011 turned into armed conflict, the Syrian Arab Republic has gone completely silent to the Committee on the ongoing violations committed – despite violations of human rights committed by the Syrian government amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes. While Syria has responded to the Committee’s List of Issues in 2024, it does not reflect the crimes committed and reported by UN bodies on the grave violations of the ICCPR: such as the grave violations of the right to life, including through ongoing indiscriminate attacks against civilians, the use of banned and chemical weapons and systematic executions in detention, the use of widespread and systematic torture and ill-treatment and rape and other forms of sexual violence, the lack of fair trial, the continued enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention with the use of secret detention facilities, and also grave restrictions to fundamental freedoms, including the grave violations against returnees, peaceful activism, journalists and human rights defenders.

The review of the Human Rights Committee on Syria is crucial to fighting impunity in the face of the human rights violations perpetrated by the Syrian Arab Republic and the consistent breach of the ICCPR standards since 2011. By allowing Arabic interpretation, the Committee will be able to hear and benefit from precise inputs from Syrian CSOs in an inclusive way; therefore, it will be able to benefit from unique expertise on human rights implementation in Syria. The formal briefing with the Committee also represents a unique opportunity for Syrian CSOs to address their concerns regarding the violations of the ICCPR in Syria in a consolidated way, providing the Committee with crucial information on Syria’s response to the adopted List of Issues.

Unfortunately, formal briefings are restricted to three UN languages: English, French and Spanish. The right to participation and accessibility are at the heart of the UN, and those principles are present in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR itself. In many instances, the restriction of accessibility has long-term negative impacts on the rights of people, and in this particular case, language restrictions would deprive CSOs and victims’ groups of accessing and utilising the UN processes adequately, directly affecting the most fundamental rights of SyriansThis particular restriction of language is a great limitation to Syrian SCOs and victims’ groups willing to join the formal briefing and considerably affects their ability to ensure accountability for violations of the ICCPR in Syria.

For these many reasons, we, the undersigned organisations and victims’ group, formally ask the Human Rights Committee to provide Arabic interpretation.

We thank the Committee for its long-standing commitment to human rights and await positive arrangements and inclusiveness during the 141st session.

Signatories

  1. The Syrian Legal Development Programme (SLDP)
  2. The Day After (TDA)
  3. The Syrian Network For Human Rights (SNHR)
  4. Women Now for Deveopleemet (WND)
  5. Free Syrian Lawyers Association (FSLA)
  6. Lawyers and Doctors for Human Rights (LDHR)
  7. White Helmets
  8. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
  9. Syrians for Truth and Justice ( STJ)
  10. ​​Dawlaty
  11. Union of Free Syrian Students
  12. Justice for Peace
  13. Syrian Youth Empowerment Initiative (SYE Initiative)
  14. Zoom in
  15. Adalaty Centre
  16. Center for Civil Society and Democracy
  17. Mahabad Organization for Human Rights (MOHR)
  18. Global Organization for Civil Society Advancement (GLOCA)
  19. Amal Healing and Advocacy Center
  20. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  21. Women’s Organization for Transitional Justice
  22. National Dialogue Forum
  23. Union of Revolutionary Bureaus (URB)
  24. Release me (Truth and Justice Charter)
  25. Families for Freedom Movment (Truth and Justice Charter)
  26. Caesar Families Association (Truth and Justice Charter)
  27. Ta’afi Initiative (Truth and Justice Charter)
  28. Hevdesti-Synergy Association for Victims (Truth and Justice Charter)
  29. Justice for Life (JFL)
  30. Adra Detainees Association (Truth and Justice Charter)
  31. Families of Truth and Justice (Truth and Justice Charter)
  32. Coalition of Families of Persons Kidnapped by ISIS (Massar) (Truth and Justice Charter)
  33. General Union of Internees and Detainees (Truth and Justice Charter)

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