Back in March, the United Nations Human Rights Council authorized a fact-finding mission to the Syrian Arab Republic to determine the extent of the alleged human rights violations taking place within its borders. The results of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria have been released, in the form of a 39-page document submitted to the UNHRC. What has been given is both broad in scope and grim in nature.
I’m attempting to read through the entire thing and pull out key pieces but it’s becoming apparent as I read through that it’s impossible to pick out ‘the worst part’. They’re all ‘the worst part’. Mark Goldberg has a write-up on some of the low-lights here. But you really just need to read the report for yourself.
I will say, one section really caught my eye and made me read it more than once to truly grasp the enormity of what it was saying. A good number of the over 200 interviews granted to complete this report were given by defected members of the Syrian security forces. This is an excerpt:
“The protesters called for freedom. They carried olive branches and marched with their children. We were ordered to either disperse the crowd or eliminate everybody, including children. The orders were to fire in the air and immediately after to shoot at people. No time was allowed between one action and the other”
The report serves to make a few things abundantly clear. President Al Assad has in the past asserted that the Syrian Arab Republic was “facing a great conspiracy” at the hands of “imperialist forces”. There is absolutely no way to construe this report other than an utter takedown of the fallacy in that statement. The commission was set up by the UN Human Rights Council, which just three years ago was seen as a pawn for the very tyrants they were meant to be investigating. In launching the commission, the President of the HRC set-up a panel of three experts: Brazilian professor Paulo Pinheiro, serving as Chairman; the Commissioner of the UNRWA Karen Abuzayd; and the Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women Yakin Ertürk. These three are hardly the face of the Imperial West and any attempt to spin them as such will and should be promptly laughed at.
It also comes on the heels of the UN Commission Against Torture speaking out against Syrian abuses:
“Among [the reports] are cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees; rife or systematic attacks against civilian population, including the killing of peaceful demonstrators and the use of excessive of force against them; and the persecutions of human rights defenders and activists,” said Claudio Grossman, who currently heads the 10-member panel.
“Of particular concern are reports referring to children who have suffered torture and mutilation while detained; as well as cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; arbitrary detention by police forces and the military; and enforced and involuntary disappearances,” he stressed.
There has yet to be word from the Russian Federation on how this report will change their views in the Security Council. The Arab League finally slapped sanctions on Syria, which many are saying will have a much sharper impact than previous US and EU sanctions have in the past. The sanctions include:
- Cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank
- Halting funding by Arab governments for projects in Syria
- A ban on senior Syrian officials travelling to other Arab countries
- A freeze on assets related to President Bashar al-Assad’s government
Iraq and Lebanon abstained on the vote, which under Arab League rules allows them to opt out of the sanctions. Whether they will participate or not is still unclear. Russia, however, seems unmoved by this show of regional disdain towards al-Assad. Having met with Arab League envoys, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Russia still seeks “compromise, without ultimatums” in solving the crisis. I’m hoping that this report and the atrocities it lists changes the tune of Vitaly Churkin in the Security Council, but I’m not holding my breath just yet.