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Syria: Need to Address Disappearances, Wrongful Detentions, Disregard for Civilian Lives

Item 4 Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria

Human Rights Watch thanks the Commission of Inquiry for highlighting the Syrian-Russian military alliance’s dangerous disregard for civilian lives. In the last 6 months, Human Rights Watch has documented indiscriminate and targeted attacks by the Syrian-Russian military alliance on civilians and civilian objects in Idlib, Ghouta and Aleppo, including through using internationally-prohibited weapons.

The latest act in this horrific tragedy is the ongoing, relentless bombardment of Eastern Ghouta. Civilians bear the brunt of the alliance’s well-established tactics of weaponizing humanitarian access and indiscriminate bombing to force surrender. The Human Rights Council should demand that the parties comply with UN Security Council resolution 2401, and request that the UN send monitors to oversee the aid delivery and evacuation of civilians who want to leave the enclave.

Human Rights Watch welcomes the Commission’s commitment to work closely with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria. The Human Rights Council should underline the importance of accountability for ongoing abuses in Syria and urge the UN Security Council give the International Criminal Court a mandate to address crimes by all sides to the conflict.

Human Rights Watch also welcomes the Commission’s findings, which echo an earlier Human Rights Watch investigation, that an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on a school in Mansourah last March failed to take all feasible precautions to avoid or minimize incidental loss of civilian life. The Human Rights Council should call on the US-led coalition to revisit its assessment and agree to conduct a full and transparent investigation of this strike. 

Forcible disappearances and arbitrary detentions both by Syrian government forces and other armed groups continue with little attention from the international community. HRW welcomes the Commission’s proposal of establishing a mechanism to enable speedy release of those arbitrarily detained and calls on the HRC to support such a proposal and work towards its achievement.

We welcome the Commission’s proposed principles as benchmarks for progress, and invite the Commissioners to elaborate on whether and how these will be monitored and reported back on.

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