Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS)

Arab governments and the Arab League must absolve themselves of OIC efforts to shield Syria from accountability

April 28, 2011

Arab governments and the Arab League must absolve
themselves of OIC efforts to shield Syria from accountability

Press release

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Damascus
Center for Human Rights Studies, the Committees for the Defense of Democracy
Freedom and Human Rights in Syria, and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal
Rights, strongly condemn the shameful stance taken by the Organization of the
Islamic Conference (OIC),  during the
preparatory meeting for the UN Human Rights Council Special Session to be held
tomorrow, convened to examine measures and recommendations to be adopted by the
Council to put an end to the massacres and brutal crackdown by the Syrian
authorities against peaceful popular protests calling for freedom and an end to
the repressive police state in Syria. Thus far, some 500 people have been
killed and thousands injured, detained, or subjected to involuntary
disappearance.

The member states who called the Special Session, which
includes the United States, European states, and several Latin American and
African states, proposed a resolution upholding the right of Syrians to life,
safety, and personal security, as well as their right to freely express their
opinions and exercise their rights to assembly and peaceful protest. The draft
resolution strongly condemns the use of lethal force by the Syrian authorities
to suppress the peaceful protests and recommends that the UN Office of the High
Commissioner of Human Rights send an international fact-finding mission to
investigate the widespread killing of demonstrators.

In turn, the OIC submitted an amended resolution which not
only ignores the well-recognized human rights on which the original resolution
was based, but attempts to give immunity to the Syrian authorities from any
form of accountability for the massacres, even moral accountability, using the
oft-heard pretexts of sovereignty and the inviolability of domestic matters.
The OIC resolution contains a general condemnation of what it describes as
killings, attacks on property, and violence, effectively suggesting that the
Syrian people, or the demonstrators at the very least, bear the responsibility
for these acts. The OIC rejected the initiative to send an international
fact-finding mission unless it is invited by the Syrian government, and
proposed instead an internal investigation conducted by what it termed “a
national inquiries commission,” without specifying how any national commission
would be able to conduct its work independently given the enormous pressure and
brutal repression exercised by the Syrian regime against its citizens, as well
as the lack of freedom of independent association and expression in the
country.

The undersigned organizations wholly denounce the OIC’s
declared stance, which aims to shield the Syrian regime not only from
accountability for its crimes, but even from criticism and moral condemnation.
We call on the member states of the Arab League and its General Secretariat to
drop all recommendations submitted by the OIC and publicly reject such
proposals, which themselves constitute an additional crime against the Syrian
people and an insult to the blood of martyrs of democratic uprisings in Egypt,
Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain.

On April 26, the General Secretariat of the Arab League
explicitly condemned the use of live ammunition against demonstrators and
protesters in several Arab states, and indeed endorsed the claims of freedom
and democracy called for by Arab peoples, saying that such demands should be
supported instead of bullets being fired against those making the claims. The
General Secretariat also declared its intention to put the issue of the suppression
of demonstrations with live ammunition on the agenda of the next meeting of
Arab foreign ministers, scheduled for May 8.

The undersigned organizations believe that for the sake of
its credibility, the General Secretariat of the Arab League and the Arab group
of states within the UN must not only reject the draft resolution proposed by
the OIC, but must also throw their support behind a campaign launched by NGOs
to block Syria’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in the vote
scheduled for next month. Syria’s inclusion in the Council would not only be a
breach of the norms used in the selection of members of the Council, but at the
present time, it would be tantamount to a reward for the Syrian regime for the
crackdown and massacres committed against its people.

The undersigned human rights organizations hope that the
Egyptian and Tunisian governments in particular will take leadership in this
regard, encouraging Arab states and the General Secretariat of the Arab League
to adopt stances more in keeping with the aspirations of the Syrian people and
all the region’s peoples for democratic transition and respect for human
rights.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedom and Human
Rights in Syria

Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights