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Syria

The information below addresses relevant human rights dimensions for Security Council deliberations on Syria, ahead of Security Council meeting on 21 March 2024.


Key topics below

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  1. Upcoming HRC resolution (to be adopted on 3-5 April 2024).

  2. Scheduled HRC dialogue with COI on its upcoming report (18 March 2024).

  3. HRW report on Türkiye's violations as an occupying power (29 February 2024).

  4. OHCHR report on returnees (29 February 2024).

  5. ICJ order to prevent torture and preserve evidence (16 November 2023).

  6. COI briefing to the Third Committee (24 October 2023).

  7. COI report to the Third Committee and key recommendations (22 September 2023).

  8. Joint statement by 53 statements in HRC dialogue with COI (22 September 2023).

  9. HRC resolutions and COI policy paper, both gender-focused (June-July 2023).

  10. COI report on torture (July 2023).

  11. HRC resolution extending COI mandate (4 April 2023).

  1. WPS: UN Women recommendations to Informal Experts Group (May 2023).

  2. CAAC: SG report on children in armed conflict in Syria (November 2023).

 

Relevant information for the Security Council to consider [1,135 words]


  1. On 3-5 April 2024, the Human Rights Council is expected to adopt a draft resolution to extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria. The resolution is led by the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, the Netherlands, Qatar, Türkiye and the US.

  2. On 18 March 2024 (TBC), the Commission of Inquiry on Syria will present its report to the Human Rights Council (N/A, to be published as A/HRC/55/64).

  3. On 29 February 2024, Human Rights Watch published a detailed report on Türkiye's human rights violations and lack of accountability as an occupying power in Northern Syria, particularly impacting Kurds. The report documented abductions, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, including of children, sexual violence, and torture by the various factions of the SNA, the Military Police, a force established to curb such abuses, and members of the Turkish Armed Forces and Turkish intelligence agencies, including the National Intelligence Organization (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MİT) and a number of military intelligence directorates. It also documented violations of housing, land, and property rights, including widespread looting and pillaging as well as property seizures and extortion, and exposed the abject failure of most of the accountability measures introduced in recent years.

  4. On 13 February 2024, OHCHR published a report focused on returnees. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Volker Türk said: “This report paints an alarming picture of the suffering of returnees, in particular women, amid the increasing number of deportations of Syrians from other countries. The situation of these returnees raises serious questions about the commitment of States to due process and non-refoulement. OHCHR noted in its report that the root causes of the conflict remain fundamentally unaddressed and those who return are likely to be particularly exposed to a range of human rights violations and abuses and violations of the international humanitarian law [page 3]. Some of the returnees have been compelled to return due to the deteriorating socio-economic situation where they had relocated [para 103]. Others have been pressured and forced to return by the increasing climate of animosity and resentment, as well as the imposition of restrictive measures, including arrests and deportations, by local authorities in some of their host countries [para 105]. Women have been particularly affected, through discriminatory laws and practices and additional barriers they face in accessing a range of rights, while being exposed to gender-based violence, such as sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and extortion [para 106]. As a result of the patterns of violations and abuses as documented in this report, the vast majority of those interviewed or whose cases have been documented, particularly those who had the means to flee, have decided to leave Syria for a second time, opting to return to countries such as Lebanon and Türkiye in which they know they would face extremely precarious economic conditions, often combined with social stigma, and possible abuses by local authorities [para 107].

  5. On 16 November 2023, the International Court of Justice ordered the Syrian Arab Republic to take all measures within its power to prevent acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and ensure that its officials - as well as any organizations or persons under its control, direction or influence - do not commit any such acts. Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, stated that it was the first time that the Syrian State itself was part of a judicial process. The Court also ordered Syria to take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of any evidence related to the allegations of acts falling within the Convention against Torture – such as medical records. The order was delivered after Canada and the Netherlands had filed a joint application to the ICJ for alleged violations of the Convention against Torture.

  6. On 24 October 2023, the COI briefed the Third Committee. The Commission was witnessing the largest escalation of hostilities in Syria in four years. Ground shelling killed civilians and impacted medical facilities and schools. Türkiye attacked civilian infrastructure, affecting water and power supply for hundreds of thousands of civilians. Syria remains the world’s largest refugee crisis, with more than seven million Syrians having fled the country and more than six million displaced inside.

  7. On 22 September 2023, the COI presented its report [A/HRC/54/58] to the Human Rights Council. The report documented attacks and civilian casualties involving Syrian forces and five foreign armies still operating in the country. The Syrian Army and the Russian air force launched many attacks on the earthquake-affected northwest, resulting in civilian casualties. The report detailed human rights violations by all parties. The Commission's recommendations [para 107] related to: Commission Chair Pinheiro said to the HRC: "Syria deserves more from you."

    1. Continued investment in accountability.

    2. Funding for the new institution for missing persons.

    3. Continued respect for non-refoulement principle.

    4. Assessing unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) (the Special Rapporteur on UCMs reported on her visit to the country during the same session [A/HRC/54/23/Add.1]).

    5. Forceful action to ensure humanitarian access and effective aid delivery and sustained support for programmes to empower women.

  8. During the dialogue with the COI, a joint statement on behalf of 53 States was delivered by the UK, which also leads the Core Group for the HRC resolution. They urged the Syrian authorities and all parties to engage meaningfully and in good faith to advance all aspects of Security Council resolution 2254.

  9. On 13 July 2023, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 53/18 on Syria, with a focus on women and girls. This followed the publication of a gender-focused policy paper by the COI in June. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 24-4 with 18 abstentions. Voting among Security Council members was: Yes: France, the UK and the US. No: China. Abstain: Algeria and the UAE. HRLO highlighted some relevant provisions in its recent post: All 2023 outcomes of HRC and Third Committee.

  10. Also in July 2023, the Commission of Inquiry published a report focused on torture, documenting severe physical harms among survivors, including impaired bodily functions, chronic physical pain, impotency, miscarriages, as well as multiple forms of mental harm, including post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, problems focusing, substance abuse, flashbacks, and fear of leaving the home. Both physical and mental harms often resulted in suicides among torture victims. “Women, men, girls and boys in Syrian detention have been subjected to horrific sexual violence, including rape, threat of rape, sexual torture, abuse and humiliation,” said Commissioner Lynn Welchman.

  11. On 4 April 2023, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 52/30 extending the COI's mandate by one year. It was adopted by a vote of 26-5 with 16 abstentions. Voting among Security Council members was: Yes: France, the UK and the US. No: Algeria and China. Abstain: The UAE. HRLO highlighted some relevant provisions in its recent post: All 2023 outcomes of HRC and Third Committee.

 

Information familiar to the Security Council [154 words]


Women, Peace and Security

  1. The Security Council's Informal Expert Group on WPS discussed Syria on 2 May 2023. UN Women, as the IEG secretariat, offered detailed recommendations, outlining funding priorities in humanitarian response, critical areas for greater women's participation and measures to support survivors, among other recommendations.


Children and Armed Conflict

  1. In November 2023, the Working Group on CAAC received the Secretary-General's report on CAAC in Syria, covering July 2020 to September 2022. The SG was appalled by the devastatingly high number of grave violations, in particular the increase in recruitment and use, killing and maiming, and abduction of children, and by widespread impunity. He addressed all parties with specific calls to also protect schools and hospitals, enable humanitarian access, promote accountability, address explosive remnants and respect the principle of non-refoulement. He regretted that for the first time, the Working Group did not adopt conclusions after it considered his previous report [S/2023/805, paras 80-101].

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