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2016 | HRW, Syria - Justice Needed for 5 Years of Abuses

On March 15, 2016, as the Syrian conflict entered its sixth year, the Syrian government and major Syrian opposition groups met in Geneva for negotiations at the behest of the UN. Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations urged that the negotiations include ways to end human rights abuses and promote justice for victims. Among the mechanisms Human Rights Watch suggested to ensure justice for victims are: rejections of any proposals to grant immunity to individuals implicated in serious crimes; broader truth-telling mechanisms; reparations; and vetting to bar rights abusers from official positions. Throughout the extent of the Syrian conflict, Human Rights Watch has documented and condemned violations carried out by the Syrian government against Syrian civilians, including extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture, use of incendiary and chemical weapons, use of cluster munitions, and arbitrary detentions. These violations amount to crimes against humanity. To date, international efforts toward justice for these crimes have been unsuccessful. Despite the urging of over 100 NGOs, Russia and China used their veto powers to block a UN Security Council resolution that would have referred the Syrian situation to the ICC. Finally, in December 2015, the Security Council adopted resolution 2254, which outlined a peace process for Syria. The resolution did not explicitly address post-conflict justice, however.

This report argues that the Syrian government, must ensure unrestricted access by international monitors into its detention facilities and release all arbitrarily detained political prisoners. It attributes to Russia and Iran, the Assad regime’s biggest supporters, a special responsibility to press the Syrian government in this direction. As of September 2016, through its violation of cessation of hostilities, the Syrian government continues to make it difficult for NGOs to deliver aid to besieged areas.