Arab League: Report Publicly on Syria Mission
Human Rights Watch
20 January 2012
The Arab League should publicly release its Syria monitoring mission’s final report in full and urge the United Nations Security Council to impose targeted sanctions to halt the ongoing killings, Human Rights Watch said today in a public letter to the Arab League and Arab foreign ministers. They will meet to discuss Syria on January 22, 2012. Human Rights Watch has documented ongoing daily violations by security forces against protesters and steps by the Syrian government to interfere with the work of the mission, including the detention of a wounded protester on January 1, 2012.
According to local activists, security forces have killed 506 civilians since the Arab League monitors began their mission in Syria on December 26, 2011. Attacks against security forces have also intensified in certain parts of the country. The mission’s credibility has been clouded since its inception by its lack of transparency and independence, Human Rights Watch said. The criteria for selecting the monitors have not been made available nor has any information about their monitoring experience. The mission has relied on the Syrian government for security and to transport monitors around the country, compromising the mission’s ability to access victims and witnesses safely. The mission’s interim report on January 8 has not been made public, and the Arab League has not shared information about the mission’s methodology. (…)
In its letter, Human Rights Watch urged the Arab League to work with the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria, impose sanctions against the individuals responsible for grave violations, demand unhindered access for humanitarian missions, foreign journalists, and independent human rights organizations, call on the Syrian government to cooperate with the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in establishing a human rights monitoring presence in Syria, and refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In the agreement it signed with the Arab League on December 19 the Syrian government pledged to end violence against peaceful protests, release detained protesters, withdraw armed elements from cities and residential areas, and allow Arab and international media unhindered access to all parts of Syria. Syria also pledged in the agreement to grant Arab League monitors unhindered and independent access to anyone they wish to interview to verify whether Syria has carried out these steps – including victims, detainees, and nongovernmental organizations. Syria guaranteed the safety of witnesses from reprisals. (…)
In addition to violations of the agreement documented since the monitors arrived, Syrian authorities are arbitrarily detaining protesters and activists. The Violations Documentation Center (VDC), a Syrian monitoring group, reported the detention of 490 people between December 26 and January 18. (…)
Human Rights Watch has also gathered information on instances in which the Syrian military has not withdrawn from cities as required by the agreement, including in Jisr al-Shughur, Idlib, and the al-Midan neighborhood of Damascus. Witnesses also told Human Rights Watch that military forces remain in al-Sabile, Daraa; Baba Amr, Homs; al-Sultaniya, Homs; and Zabadani, a town near Damascus.
Further, while Syrian authorities have issued more visas to foreign journalists, the authorities continue to restrict the movement of journalists within Syria and encumber their work. (…)