“No to Tyranny… No to War”: 20 Arab Organizations Decry America’s Strike and Assad’s Crimes in Syria
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
12 September 2013
We, as Arab rights organizations, express our full solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people for freedom and human rights, including the right to self-determination through free and fair democratic processes. The Syrian people have undergone deep suffering in pursuit of their rights and freedoms, and we recognize the profound sacrifices that they have made.
In this context, the undersigned Arab organizations state their severe concern over all military plans currently being discussed to launch a military strike against Syria in violation of the Charter of the United Nations. We warn that any such acts of aggression will only serve to exacerbate the armed conflict while doing nothing to resolve the humanitarian crises which have resulted from the crimes committed by the Assad regime against the people of Syria. Indeed, those who bear the brunt of the violence and fighting in Syria are the Syrian people themselves. All Syrians – regardless of their ethnic, religious, ideological, cultural, and political affiliations and allegiances – deserve to live in a state that respects their rights and freedoms, yet they have been denied these rights and freedoms for the last 42 years under the regimes of Hafez and Bashar al-Assad, which has been responsible for the killings of over 100,000 civilians, among them 11,000 Syrian children, by Syrian security forces in the past two years, according to data provided by Syrian organizations.
The situation in Syria is dominated by ongoing acts of killing and violence. The country now ranks among the worst places in the world in terms of violations to the rights to life, to physical integrity, and to protection from enforced disappearance, as these and other crimes amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity are carried out on a daily basis by the Syrian regime and affiliated militias. It is increasingly feared that some factions affiliated with the armed opposition are also continuing to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people. Meanwhile, the international community – particularly Russia and China – continues to reject all proposals by Arab and international civil society to resolve to the crisis in Syria.
Any resolution to the Syrian crisis must be based on an immediate cessation of all military and paramilitary operations both by forces loyal to the Bashar al-Assad regime and by the armed opposition. A peaceful transition of power agreed to by all parties must be begun immediately under the auspices of the United Nations. The situation in Syria must simultaneously be referred to the International Criminal Court to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all parties to the Syrian conflict over the past three years, including criminal investigations into allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the government in Syria.
The repercussions of conducting acts of aggression against Syria – even if carried out on the most limited of scales as proposed by American President Barack Obama – will be catastrophic, as such acts will perpetuate the suffering of the region from political decisions made on the regional and international levels to prioritize military solutions over any political or legal solutions. Even as discussions are held between the United States, Russia, and their respective allies regarding possibilities for national reconciliation in Syria in the frameworks of the first and second Geneva Conferences, all of these parties continue to provide unconditioned military support to the warring parties on the ground inside Syria. Such an approach will result in the spread of armed violence over which it will be exceedingly difficult to regain control in the near future.
The undersigned organizations affirm that any unilateral military intervention without the approval of the United Nations constitutes a crime of aggression punishable under international criminal law. We further assert that all states which are considering taking military action against Syria must realize that war crimes and crimes against humanity cannot be prevented or ended through the commission of additional international crimes.
This applies also to the intervention of other foreign parties in the Syrian conflict. The involvement of members of Hezbollah and other external groups suspected of being affiliated with Al-Qaeda does not help either of the two sides to the armed conflict. Rather, it may exacerbate the suffering of the Syrian people and place them at the mercy of brutal mercenaries who have no legal interest in the current conflict. Indeed, the tolerance of the international community of this involvement of foreign mercenaries in the fighting between the two sides in Syria is pushing neighboring states towards a massive political crisis which will prove to be all but impossible to resolve.
The undersigned Arab organizations affirm their full solidarity with and respect for the will of the Syrian people, who have endured a brutal war against the Syrian regime. At the same time, we insist that the aspirations of the Syrian people to establish justice, equality, and freedom will not be achieved through direct military strikes. We further express our severe concern at the disregard of basic considerations of international humanitarian law displayed by some armed groups opposed to the al-Assad regime and their lack of respect for the very principles and values which they charge the Assad regime of violating – all of which bodes poorly for the future of post-Assad Syria.
Many states have referred to the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “red line” and asserted that it is necessary to punish the Assad regime for such crimes. In this context, the undersigned organizations emphasize that the use of chemical weapons by the forces of the Assad regime or by any other party constitutes an unpardonable crime which is not subject to a statute of limitations. Yet in our view, the only “red line” is the lives of civilians, regardless of the type of weapons used to kill them or who is responsible for their deaths. The international community has failed to uphold this principle over the past three years, and no military strike such as the one announced by the United States will be able to ensure that it is upheld now.
The lack of political will both within Syria and among the international community to resolve the Syrian crisis in a manner based on international law exacerbates the suffering of tens of thousands of political prisoners in Assad’s detention centers who have been subjected to the most inhumane forms of torture and the worst degradation of human dignity, just as it adds to the ranks of the millions of displaced people whose homes have been destroyed and who have been forced to flee to refugee camps, where their fates are decided by the political battles playing out in neighboring countries. The human conscience will not forget the sight of children being bombed and the thousands of women who faced collective punishment through rape, nor how the international community stood by while such horrific atrocities were committed.
Therefore, the undersigned Arab organizations stress the necessity of the following steps:
The Security Council must adopt a resolution under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter imposing a ban on the sale, export, or provision of any form of weaponry or military supplies to any of the parties to the Syrian conflict.
1. Cairo institute for Human Rights Studies
2. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
3. Arab Network for Human Rights Information
4. Arab penal reform organization
5. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
6. Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR(
7. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
8. Committee for the respect of liberties and human rights.
9. Egyptian foundation for Advancement of the Childhood Conditions
10. Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination
11. Group for Human Rights Legal Assistance, Egypt.
12. Habi Center for Environmental Rights
13. Human Rights First Society, Saudi Arabia
14. Moroccan Instance of Human Rights
15. Palestinian Human Rights Organization (PHRO)
16. The Hesham Mobarak Law Center
17. The Human Rights Association for the Assistance of the Prisoners
18. Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights.
19. Yemen Organizations. For Defending Rights & Democratic Freedoms.
20. Yemeni Center for Transitional Justice