SYRIA: Government should release children from detention, says Commission of Inquiry.

Summary: The Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented its latest report to the Human Rights Council today.

Paulo Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, presenting the updated report, said that fighting raged on in Syria. Civilians across the country daily faced indiscriminate shelling and bombardment by Government forces. Many towns and villages remained besieged, while torture was systematically employed in Government detention centres. Extremist anti-Government armed groups had targeted civilians in attacks across the northern governorates and the methods of warfare used spread terror among the civilian population.

The vast majority of the conflict’s casualties resulted from unlawful attacks using conventional weapons such as guns and mortars. Nevertheless, the debate over what international action to take, if any, had assumed new urgency following the alleged use of chemical weapons on 21 August. The Commission, while awaiting the report of the United Nations Mission to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons, was continuing its investigations regarding the perpetrator of the attacks and would report to the Council according to its mandate.

Release children from detention!

Over six million people were refugees or internally displaced persons. More than two million had crossed the borders, seeking safety in neighbouring countries. Millions more had left their homes, braving shelling and the dangers of the ever-present checkpoints, to seek shelter inside Syria. The Government had continued its relentless campaign of air bombardment and artillery shelling across the country. The Government should take steps to release children from detention or to transfer them to a juvenile justice system consistent with both fair trial and children’s rights. Both anti-Government armed groups and Government forces continued to launch attacks on medical personnel and hospitals. Syria had become an increasingly dangerous place for journalists to work. A disturbing pattern of harassment, arrest and detention of journalists, especially foreigners, had emerged.

Across northern Syria, there had been an upsurge in crimes and abuses committed by extremist anti-Government armed groups along with an influx of foreign fighters. Entire brigades were now made up from fighters who had crossed into Syria. Failure to bring about a settlement had allowed the conflict not only to deepen in its intransigence but also to widen – expanding to new actors and to unimaginable crimes. Supplies of weapons to all sides had enabled escalation of the conflict, and with it, jeopardised the protection of civilians. Arms transfers should not occur where there was a real risk that they would be used in the commission of crimes against humanity, violations of international humanitarian law, or war crimes. In Syria, this was a tragic reality.

Syria's response

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that the Commission of Inquiry continued to stray in the labyrinth of exaggeration and reliance on unverified reports. Syria had advised the Commission to act on the basis of truth and objectivity. More than 250 communications and documents had been provided to the Commission, but had been ignored.

The Commission continued to ignore the negative effect of the unjust economic sanctions imposed on the people of Syria that had caused many economic and social crises, and the migration of Syrians to neighbouring countries. Regarding the destruction of its own health infrastructure, this was cheap misguidance. There was no country that would destroy its own infrastructure and Syria did not a need a certificate of good conduct from the Commission. The principle of the right of a State to protect its people had also been ignored.

A small positive step by the Commission however, was its indication of the conformity of the position of Saudi Arabia with the position of Al Qaeda. It was hoped that in future the Commission would find the candour and courage to indicate that Turkey and Qatar were implicated. Syria had cooperated fully with the Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons and had extended an invitation, which had not taken place for reasons unknown. The Special Rapporteur had not obtained credible and documented information, so Syria wondered why he had not undertaken a visit to the country.

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