crimes against humanity
Call on INTERPOL to ban the illegal junta from representing Myanmar at its General Assembly
To: Kim Jong Yang, INTERPOL President; Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL General Secretary; the INTERPOL Executive Committee and INTERPOL Member Countries
Dear INTERPOL President Kim Jong Yang, INTERPOL Vice Presidents Benyamina Abbad and Šárka Havránková,INTERPOL General Secretary Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Executive Committee Delegates Khaled Jameel Al Materyeen, Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi, Jean-Jacques Colombi, Rogerio Galloro, Robert Guirao Bailén, Destino Pedro, Olushola Kamar Subair, Jannine Van den Berg, and Member Countries.
We, the undersigned 259 organizations, call on INTERPOL to immediately ban the Myanmar military junta from representing Myanmar as a member of INTERPOL. We demand you ensure that the military junta is excluded from the upcoming 89th INTERPOL General Assembly and all benefits and future cooperation that membership entails.
According to media reports, the Myanmar military junta’s police force is currently representing Myanmar in INTERPOL and its members, led by the Head of Police and Deputy Home Affairs Minister Lieutenant-General Than Hlaing, will act as delegates for the Myanmar government at the INTERPOL General Assembly. This is a matter of grave concern to us and raises serious credibility issues for INTERPOL itself for the following reasons:
- The military junta does not represent the government of Myanmar. The international community has refused to recognise the military junta as the legitimate government of Myanmar and has prevented members of the military junta from participating in international forums including the UN General Assembly, the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and the ASEAN Summit.
- The attempted coup on 1 February 2021, under the leadership of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing by violent means violated the Myanmar Constitution, international law and the principle of rule of law.
- The head of the UN Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar recently stated that since the attempted coup the Myanmar military junta’s widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population amounts to crimes against humanity.
- The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, composed of international experts including former members of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar and a former Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, has recently argued that, in addition to crimes against humanity, the Myanmar military is engaging in terrorism and should be classified as a terrorist organization.
- Lt. General Than Hlaing, as the junta’s Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and Chief of Police, is directly responsible for decision making concerning repressive policies and violent actions committed by police against peaceful demonstrators and is therefore responsible for serious human rights violations in Myanmar/Burma.
- For this and other reasons, Lt. General Than Hlaing has been placed by the European Union under a travel ban and asset freeze as of 3 March 2021.
- Targeted sanctions against Lt. General Than Hlaing also remain in place by the US, UK, and Canada (overview with links here).
- Lt General Than Hlaing has been appointed to lead operations in Chin State. Escalating military attacks against civilians there and in Sagaing and Magwe Regions have caused rights groups to draw similarities to “clearance operations” used to violently oppress the ethnic Rohingya population – now at issue in the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice
INTERPOL’s vision is to connect police for a “safer world” and to support security for the world’s citizens. The people of Myanmar are in dire need of safety and security. The single biggest threat to their security is the Myanmar military junta, who is attempting to represent Myanmar in INTERPOL and use the General Assembly as a platform for political gain and international legitimacy. This will embolden the Myanmar military to continue to commit international crimes with blanket impunity.
We note that countering the threat of terrorism is the first of INTERPOL’s seven Global Policing Goals, and INTERPOL has a responsibility to counter and disrupt terrorism wherever it occurs, including in Myanmar.
We draw your attention to condemnation by the UN Security Council regarding the junta following the February 2021 coup, including a November 2021 statement by the Council’s President Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez citing “deep concern at further recent violence across Myanmar”.
We note that upholding human rights is central to INTERPOL’s mandate. We implore you to meet the commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated in Article 2 of the Constitution of the ICPO-INTERPOL. Recognizing the Myanmar military junta, responsible for systemic and grave human rights violations would be a clear violation of this article.
We appeal to you to adhere to INTERPOL’s commitment to political neutrality stated in Article 3 of the INTERPOL Constitution. Awarding an unlawful military junta that lacks domestic and international recognition with legitimacy would violate this article, and amount to a partisan intervention that would embolden the military to continue to commit international crimes with total impunity.
Instead of legitimizing the military junta through INTERPOL membership, we appeal to you to uphold international law by supporting the ongoing investigation at the International Criminal Court concerning crimes of genocide against the Rohingya, and future investigations, to bring all perpetrators of Myanmar atrocities to account. The Myanmar military must be recognized as a terrorist organization, not recognized as representatives of the Myanmar people who are the very victims of the junta’s daily barrage of violence that INTERPOL aims to protect.
We therefore call on INTERPOL to:
- Ban the Myanmar military junta from INTERPOL, including the 89th General Assembly.
- Support efforts to bring Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing, Lt Gen Than Hlaing and all other perpetrators of atrocity crimes to justice by identifying and arresting suspects.
- Take all measures available to prevent the Myanmar military junta’s continued acts of terrorism by disrupting terrorism movement and tracing and disrupting their international revenue and arms supply networks.
At this fragile and crucial time in Myanmar, INTERPOL and their member countries must act in the interests of the safety and security of Myanmar people, victims and survivors of crime and in accordance with international law and norms.
- 8888 Generation (New Zealand)
- Action Committee for Democracy Development
- Activists Group for Human Rights ‘BARAM’
- Albany Karen Community, Albany
- All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress
- All Burma Democratic Face in New Zealand
- ALL FOR LITTLE ONE
- Alliance for Gender Inclusion in Peace Process (AGIPP)
- Alternative Solutions for Rural Communities (ASORCOM)
- Arizona Kachin Community
- ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights – APHR
- Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)
- Asian Dignity Initiative
- Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
- Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
- Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
- Auckland Kachin Community NZ
- Auckland Zomi Community
- Blood Money Campaign
- Boat People SOS
- Burma Action Ireland
- Burma Campaign UK
- Burma Human Rights Network
- Burma Rohingya Organisation UK
- Burmese Relief Center - Japan
- Burmese Rohingya Welfare Organisation New Zealand
- Burmese Women’s Union
- Calgary Karen Community Association (CKCA)
- California Kachin Community
- Campaign for a New Myanmar
- Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights Committee (CENTRAL)
- Chin Community of Auckland
- Christian Solidarity Worldwide
- Citizen of Burma Award-New Zealand
- CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
- Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA)
- Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL)
- Committee for Religions Freedom in Vietnam
- CRPH & NUG Supporters Austria
- CRPH & NUG Supporters Ireland
- CRPH Funding Ireland
- Dallas Kachin Community
- Decency & Clarity
- DEEKU-Karenni Community of Amarillo, TX
- Democracy for Myanmar - Working Group (NZ)
- Democracy, Peace and Women’s Organization – DPW
- Dongjadong Sarangbang
- Edmonton Karen Community Youth Organization
- Education Community Woorijari Social Cooperation
- Equality Myanmar
- European Karen Network
- Federal Myanmar Benevolence Group (NZ)
- Federation of General Workers Myanmar
- Federation of Workers' Union of the Burmese Citizen in Japan
- Freedom House
- Future Light Center
- Future Thanlwin
- Gangbuk Housing Welfare Center
- Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC)
- Gender Equality Network
- Georgia Kachin Community
- Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4MD)
- Global Myanmar Spring Revolution
- Gwangju Asia sisterhood
- Gyeonggi Association of Self-Sufficiency Promotion Center
- Houston Kachin Community
- Human Rights Foundation of Monland
- Incorporated Organization Shilcheon Bulgyo
- Independent Trade Union Federation (INTUFE)
- Info Birmanie
- Initiatives for International Dialogue
- International Campaign for the Rohingya
- International Child Rights Center
- International Karen Organisation
- International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
- Iowa Kachin Community
- JPIC of Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill
- Junta Denouncing Committee Korea
- Justice For Myanmar
- Kachin American Community (Portland – Vancouver)
- Kachin Community of Indiana
- Kachin Community of USA
- Kachin Gender Star Group
- Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
- Kaesong Tourism Center
- Kansas Karenni community, KS
- Karen American Association of Milwaukee, WI
- Karen Association of Huron, SD
- Karen Community of Akron, OH
- Karen Community of Canada (KCC)
- Karen Community of Czech Republic
- Karen Community of Finland
- Karen Community of Hamilton
- Karen Community of Iowa, IA
- Karen Community of Ireland
- Karen Community of Israel
- Karen Community of Kansas City
- Karen Community of Kitchener & Waterloo
- Karen Community of Leamington K
- Karen Community of Lethbridge
- Karen Community of London
- Karen Community of Minnesota, MN
- Karen Community of North Carolina
- Karen Community of Ottawa
- Karen Community of Regina
- Karen Community of Saskatoon
- Karen Community of Thunderbay
- Karen Community of Toronto
- Karen Community of Windsor
- Karen Community of Winnipeg
- Karen Community Society of British Columbia (KCSBC)
- Karen Human Rights Group
- Karen Organization of America
- Karen Organization of Illinois, IL
- Karen Thai Group
- Karen Women’s Organization
- Karen Youth Education Pathways
- Karen Youth Networks
- Karen Youth of Norway
- Karen Youth of Toronto
- Karen Youth Organization
- Karenni Civil Society Network
- Karenni Community of Arizona, AZ
- Karenni Community of Arkensas, AK
- Karenni Community of Austin, TX
- Karenni Community of Bowling Green, KY
- Karenni Community of Buffalo, NY
- Karenni Community of Chicago, IL
- Karenni Community of Colorado, CO
- Karenni Community of Dallas, TX
- Karenni community of Des Moines, IA
- Karenni Community of Florida, FL
- Karenni Community of Fort Worth, TX
- Karenni Community of Georgia, GA
- Karenni Community of Houston, TX
- Karenni Community of Idaho, ID
- Karenni Community of Indianapolis, IN
- Karenni Community of Massachusetts, MA
- Karenni Community of Michigan, MI
- Karenni Community of Minnesota, MN
- Karenni Community of Missouri, MO
- Karenni Community of North Carolina, NC
- Karenni Community of Portland, OR
- Karenni Community of Rockford, IL
- Karenni Community of San Antonio, TX
- Karenni Community of Sioux Falls, SD
- Karenni Community of Utah, UT
- Karenni Community of Utica, NY
- Karenni Community of Washington, WA
- Karenni Community of Wisconsin, WI
- Karenni Human Rights Group
- Karenni National Women’s Organization
- Karenni Society New Zealand
- Karenni Society of Omaha, NE
- Karenni-American Association
- Keng Tung Youth
- Kentucky Kachin Community
- Kijamii Table
- Kim Wan Sik (MR)
- Korea Christian Solidarity for Democracy and Human Rights in Myanmar
- Korea Karen Organization
- Korea Karen Youth Organization
- Korea Women's Associations United (KWAU)
- Korean House for International Solidarity
- Korean Solidarity for Overseas Community Organization
- Let’s Help Each Other
- Louisiana Kachin Community
- Maryland Kachin Community
- May18 Seoul Memorial Society
- Metta Campaign Mandalay
- Michigan Kachin Community
- Migrant Health Association in Korea WeFriends
- Milk Tea Alliance (Friend For Myanmar)
- MINBYUN - Lawyers for a Democratic Society International Solidarity Committee
- Minnesota Kachin Community
- Myanmar Accountability Project
- MYANMAR Action Supporters
- Myanmar Community Austria
- Myanmar Democratic Force (Denmark)
- Myanmar Engineers - New Zealand
- Myanmar Family Community in Ireland
- Myanmar Gonye (New Zealand)
- Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
- Myanmar Students Organization
- Myanmar Students' Union in New Zealand
- National Clergy Conference for Justice and Peace
- NeT Organization
- Network for Advocacy Action
- Network for Human Rights Documentation Burma (ND-Burma)
- New Bodhisattva Network
- New York Kachin Community
- New Zealand Doctors for NUG
- New Zealand Karen Association
- New Zealand Zo Community Inc.
- No Business With Genocide
- North Carolina Kachin Community
- NUG & CRPH Supporter Denmark
- Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
- Olive Organization
- Omaha Kachin Community
- Organization of Social Welfare Service Bokumjari
- Oversea Karen Organization Japan
- Overseas Mon Association. New Zealand
- Pa-O Youth Organization
- Pennsylvania Kachin Community
- People’s Initiatives for Development Alternatives
- People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
- Progressive 3.0
- Progressive Korea
- Progressive Voice
- Pyithu Gonye (New Zealand)
- RCSD/FSS Chiang Mai University
- Rvwang Community Association New Zealand
- SAMYANG CITIZENS NETWORK
- SARANGBANG Group for Human Rights
- Save and Care Organization for Ethnic Women at Border Areas
- Save Myanmar Fundraising Group (New Zealand)
- Shan Community (New Zealand)
- Shan MATA
- Sisters 2 Sisters
- Sitt Nyein Pann Foundation
- Social Action for Community and Development (SACD)
- Solidarity for Another World
- South Carolina Kachin Community
- Support Group for Democracy in Myanmar (Netherlands)
- Supporters group for migrant workers in Korea
- Suwon Migrants Center
- Swedish Burma Committee
- Synergy – Social Harmony Organization
- Ta’ang Women’s Organization
- Ta'ang Legal Aid
- Tanintharyi Women Network
- Tennessee Kachin Community
- The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
- The People Center for Development and Peace (PDP-Center)
- Union of Karenni State Youth
- US Campaign for Burma
- Utica Karen Community, NY
- Virginia Kachin Community
- Washington Kachin Community
- West Virginia Kachin Community
- With Gilbut Welfare Foundation
- Women Advocacy Coalition – Myanmar (WAC-M)
- Women’s League of Burma
- Women’s Peace Network
- Youth of Kim Dae-jung Foundation
- Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP)
Civic space in Myanmar is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor
China: Impunity persists for attacks against human rights
🇨🇳#China: Impunity persists for attacks against human rights. Violations across #Uyghur & #Tibetan regions, as well as #HongKong have become increasingly severe.— CIVICUS (@CIVICUSalliance) June 29, 2021
Civil society speaks out at #HRC47 on the need for the #UN to respond: https://t.co/xDWiB0Nfnb pic.twitter.com/ymUZ6RsYoX
Statement at 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council
Delivered by Sarah M Brooks, The International Service for Human Rights
Madame High Commissioner,
As you must be aware, the human rights situation in China remains dire. Major research reports published in the last two months independently reach the same conclusion: the Chinese government is committing crimes against humanity against its Turkic Muslim population. The international community, this Council, and your Office cannot remain silent.
We request that you urgently strengthen monitoring and initiate public reporting on the human rights situation across China.
This is essential to providing objective, independent and concrete information to all stakeholders, and to seeking constructive solutions to protect vulnerable populations from further abuse.
In your last update to this Council, you pointed to the curtailment of fundamental rights and freedoms in the name of national security, especially targeting Uyghurs and Tibetans; restrictions on free speech and detentions linked to the Covid-19 response; the investigation of protesters in Hong Kong; and arbitrary arrest,and unfair trials of lawyers, journalists and defenders.
In the months since, little has changed. More is needed.
We acknowledge your call for unfettered access to ‘all regions of China’. We emphasise that access is not a prerequisite for accountability. Ongoing negotiations should not delay urgently needed action.
Human rights violations across China, Uyghur and Tibetan regions, as well as Hong Kong have become increasingly severe over the last years, even while Chinese authorities have consistently denied meaningful cooperation. We are here as allies, but the victims and communities urgently need you, your Office, and the UN as a whole to respond.
Civic space in China is currently rated as Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor.
Ethiopia: Amidst a humanitarian crisis, violations are compounded by civic space restrictions
State,emt at the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council – 51st Session
Interactive Dialogue on Ethiopia
Delivered by Lisa Majumdar
Thank you, Mr President, and thank you to the Commission for their first report.
It paints a grim picture of resumed hostilities compounding violations which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
We are seriously concerned by the civic space restrictions that are adding to the crisis – from restrictions to humanitarian access, to imposition of internet blackouts, to widespread arbitrary detention.
The situation in Ethiopia, including the humanitarian disaster that has unfolded, will have consequences well beyond its borders. It is critical that full, unfettered, and sustained humanitarian access to Tigray is immediately restored.
The report references the arbitrary detention of thousands of Tigrayans across the country, including in administrative detention centres, as well as on a massive scale in western Tigray.
We note that mass arbitrary detention can amount to a crime against humanity.
We call on the Ethiopian government to cease all forms of intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists and other media actors.
We note with serious concern the constraints on the work of the Commission owing to shortfalls in resources and lack of access. We therefore urge this Council to not only renew the mandate of the commission, but to ensure its adequate resourcing, and we call for the Commission’s unhindered access.
We thank you.
Civic space in Ethiopia is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor
ICC urged to resume its investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippines
Honourable Karim A. A. Khan QC
The Office of the Prosecutor
International Criminal Court
Oude Waalsdorperweg 10, 2597 AK Den Haag, Netherlands
To ICC Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan
We, human rights organisations working on the Philippines, call on your office to resume its investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, in relation to the country’s ‘war on drugs’.
In its 10 November 2021 letter, the Philippine Government raised issues of complementarity, citing that it has domestic mechanisms in place to investigate the killings. However, we reiterate concerns that of an estimated tens of thousands killed in the ‘war on drugs’, only a small number were covered in the review of documents by the country’s Department of Justice. Of these cases, the Justice Department cited only procedural errors, and most police officers involved in human rights violations merely received suspensions, raising concerns on the Philippines’ commitment to justice.
The government likewise refuses to investigate the national policy landscape that enabled these killings, including the National Police Commission’s Memorandum Circular, which launched Operation Double Barrel, implementing the President’s ‘war on drugs’. On this account, the highest officials most responsible for the widespread human rights violations are escaping official domestic investigations.
The Philippines’ human rights record speaks for itself. There has only been one criminal conviction out of the huge number of estimated extrajudicial killings. The government continues to refuse to work with the National Human Rights which has done intensive investigations into many cases of such killings.
To date, there has been no independent body established and relatives of victims remain fearful of reprisals should they cooperate with independent investigations.The country’s President has incited violence against his critics while assuring protection to the police officers involved in the ‘war on drugs’. In light of this, what we see is a government that has used domestic mechanisms only to shield perpetrators from international accountability.
We reiterate that the ICC investigation has wider implications beyond the Philippines. When the investigation was announced, it sent a message of hope to victims in the country and across the region where people continue to face State-sponsored violence. Civil society had hoped that the ICC would serve as a deterrent to human rights atrocities perpetrated by many authoritarian leaders across Asia. However, an order of deferment may be used to incite a disregard for international accountability.
We have, over the past five years, documented cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other crimes against humanity. We work with victims, who, until this day, are afraid to speak because of the real threat of reprisals. The ‘war on drugs’ has expanded into a war on civic space and a war against its people, where critics and civil society opposing the ‘war on drugs’ have been systematically targeted.
As perpetrators of these violations once again try to take power in the coming 2022 national elections, any deferment poses risks that this cycle of impunity will only continue. The ICC was established to provide justice to victims of the gravest violations. We remain committed in supporting the Court in the pursuit of this mission.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Karapatan Alliance Philippines
DAKILA - Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism
Human Rights Online Philippines (HRonlinePH)
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend)
LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women's Rights)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights)
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
Civic space in the Philippines is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor
Joint Letter to Human Rights Council: Upholding international law in South Sudan
To Permanent Representatives of member and observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council
RE: Renewing the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and addressing the need for accountability for past and on-going crimes under international law and human rights violations in South Sudan
Massive crackdown on civil society and human rights require Council’s resolute action
Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR report on the situation of human rights in Belarus in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and in its aftermath
Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio
Thank you Mr. President,
We welcome the report of the High Commissioner and share the concerns over the complete lack of accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations, including the detention of thousands of people which could amount to crimes against humanity.
In previous updates to the Council we expressed concerns over the targeting of protesters, detention and judicial persecution of human rights defenders and the prosecution of journalists.
The human rights situation continues to deteriorate. The Belarusian authorities continue to retaliate against human rights groups and the work they do.
Human rights defenders and their families are subjected to intrusive searches, arbitrary detentions and are held in inhumane conditions. Human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, Chair of the human rights group Viasna, several of his colleagues and hundreds of other human rights defenders are still detained.
More than 32 lawyers representing protesters, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition who are detained have had their licenses revoked by the authorities. In addition, lawyers are subjected to intrusive searches and other forms of harassment.
More than 300 civil society groups have been affected by liquidation procedures initiated by the government. In October 2021, the Supreme Court acceded to the demands of the Ministry of Justice to close down Belarus’ oldest human rights organisation – Belarusian Helsinki Committee.
Hundreds of journalists have been arbitrarily detained under trumped up charges and key media outlets, including the Belarusian Association of Journalists, which has been promoting the rights of journalists and media rights for 25 years, have been dissolved.
Given the relentless deterioration of the human rights situation in the country and the lack of any efforts made by the authorities to hold perpetrators into account, we call on the members of the Human Rights Council to support and adopt a strong resolution on the human rights situation in Belarus which can further investigate violations with a view to holding perpetrators to account.
Civic space in Belarus is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor
Myanmar: Urgent need to ensure accountability and justice for crimes against humanity
Statement at the 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Interactive Dialogue on report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar
Delivered by Lisa Majumdar
Thank you, Madame President.
We thank the Mechanism for their report. In a year which has seen a coup perpetrated by a military junta which has been implicated in crimes against humanity, the work carried out by this mandate to facilitate justice and accountability for past serious crimes and contribute to the deterrence of further atrocities has never been more critical.
Indeed, the report concludes that the Myanmar junta has committed serious international crimes since seizing power on 1 February 2021, continuing a cycle of impunity, violence and deaths. Among the serious crimes noted has been the use of lethal force, including the use of live ammunition, against protesters in multiple locations.
The Mechanism itself highlights that its work to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence is a contribution towards what must be a wider effort towards criminal accountability and justice. We call on Member States to take measures to ensure that such an accountability process takes place, including by referring Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or an independent tribunal. Failing to do so would be a grave abdication of responsibility to the victims of grave human rights violations, their families and communities, who have deserved accountability and justice for so long.
The work of the mechanism would not be possible without participation from witnesses and victims of violations and civil society activists. The courage of those who do cannot be overstated. We therefore further call on Member States to facilitate the protection of witnesses and prevent any reprisals for cooperation with the Mechanism.
We ask the Mechanism what steps it is taking to systematize engagement with civil society, and what steps it is taking to ensure sustainability in the event of budget restrictions?
Civic space in Myanmar is rated as repressed by the CIVUCUS Monitor
Syria - Justice for the thousands of victims of enforced disappearances
Arabic | Kurdish
We, the undersigned civil society organisations, commemorate the victims of enforced disappearances in Syria and support their families, urging the international community to support their demand to ensure justice, truth and reparation and the immediate release of all those enforcedly held in secret detention. As the world marks today the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, our organisations condemn the continued and systematic use of enforced disappearance which amounts to a crime against humanity committed by the Syrian government. To silence its critics and instil fear among communities, the Syrian government adopted this practice towards its civilians and deployed it systematically after the start of the peaceful protests in 2011. We also call upon all armed groups to the conflict to promptly release all those held disappeared and disclose their fates and whereabouts.
Since the rise of the peaceful protests in Syria, our organisations have been monitoring, documenting and campaigning on cases of hundreds of Syrian individuals who have been subjected to enforced disappearance. Many of those are women and children. Thousands of family members of those disappeared are struggling for justice in their dangerous and impossible quest to find the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. They experience mental and emotional anguish, while placed outside the protection of the law, and are often blackmailed, manipulated and used by brokers. The struggle for justice must not cease, accountability towards enforced disappearance must be high on the agenda of all international peace making and negotiations on Syria which might take place.
We call for justice for Bassel Khartabil, a Syrian-Palestinian software engineer and free speech activist, who was subjected to extrajudicial execution by a military field court in October 2015 and whose fate only became known in August 2017. On 15 March 2012, Military Intelligence had arrested Bassel Khartabil and held him incommunicado for eight months.
We urge the Syrian government to immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of tens of thousands of victims of enforced disappearances including Syrian lawyer Khalil Maatouk, whose whereabouts are unknown since he was arrested at a government military checkpoint in October 2012. We call on the armed opposition groups to release Syrian human rights defenders, including Razan Zaitouneh Samira Khalil, Wael Hamadeh and Nazem Hammadi, who were kidnapped from the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) offices by armed, masked gunmen in Douma on 9 December 2013.
We collectively call for the immediate release of all detainees held in Syria for peacefully exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and association. We urge both the Syrian government and armed opposition groups to immediately disclose the fate of those disappeared and stop arbitrarily arresting, abducting and detaining people for their peaceful, journalistic, and humanitarian activities – in line with United Nations Security Council resolution 2139, which demands ‘the release of all arbitrarily detained’ in Syria.
We specifically call on the Syrian government to:
- Ensure that no further executions of detained human rights defenders occur, and cease their subjections to any military or ad-hoc court such as the Counter-Terrorism Court;
- Transfer all detainees to known and recognised places of detention, and allow visits to prisons by their families, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other relevant committees;
- Allow access to UN officials including the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria to conduct impartial investigations into the tens of thousands of enforced disappearances in Syria since 2011;
- Ensure the registration of all detainees' data, inform them of their detention grounds, and ensure that they have access to the necessary healthcare;
- Promptly accede, without making any reservation, to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; and implement it fully under national law. In addition, Syrian authorities should recognize competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider communication from or on behalf of victims or other states parties;
- Ensure that all participants in the search for victims of enforced disappearance, in particular relatives of detainees, are protected from ill-treatment, smuggling, retaliation, arrests and enforced disappearance;
- Ensure that all survivors of enforced disappearance, released persons, families of deceased victims, and their relatives receive justice, truth and reparation - including material compensation, rehabilitation and restitution of property; ensure that such a crime does not recur and that all those suspected of criminal responsibility are brought to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts and without recourse to death penalty.
We specifically call on armed opposition groups to:
- Promptly release any person subject to enforced disappearance;
- Submit lists of the names of the kidnapped and disappeared to their families and to relevant international organisations
1. Amnesty International
3. EuroMed Rights (EMR)
4. Front Line Defenders
5. Families for Freedom
6. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
7. Human Rights Guardians
8. Impunity Watch
9. International Federation for Human rights (FIDH)
10. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
11. Justice for Life Organization (JFL)
12. Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)
13. PAX for Peace
14. PEN international
15. Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research (SCLSR)
16. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
17. Syrian Institute for Justice and Accountability
18. Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ)
19. Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)
20. The Day After (TDA)
21. The Syrian Archive
23. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)