140 representatives of Arab civil society organisations working in the Arab world demand LAS action on Syria
A coalition of 140 Arab organisations working in nineteen countries across the Arab world has demanded that the League of Arab States recognize the flaws that have severely undermined the efficacy of the Arab observers mission, to publicly release the monitoring mission’s report, to withdraw the monitoring mission given the Syrian regime’s failure to implement the terms of the Arab League protocol and to call for the UN Security Council to take action to address the violence.
With over 400 civilians killed by Syrian security forces in the first three weeks of the Arab mission according to documented UN figures, the coalition has written to the League of Arab States in view of its upcoming meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of January 21, urging them to send a strong message to the Syrian Government and to the UN. The request from leading Arab human rights organizations follows a continuous and blatant violation of the Arab road map. The latter requires that Syria immediately stops the violence and killings against peaceful protesters, withdraws its military from cities and residential areas, release all political detainees related to the uprising and grant full access to all parts of Syria by both International and Arab media as well as Arab organizations.
However, the signatories have expressed serious concerns about the Arab observers mission.
“The monitoring mission lacks basic transparency and credibility, the mission is under the authority of Sudan’s ex-Military Intelligence Director who was Sudan’s President’s Darfur adviser during the genocide, no observers have been able to do their job: instead, the mission legitimizes the Syrian regime” summarized Dr. Radwan Ziadeh, President of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, a member of the coalition.
Syrian human rights lawyer Haitham El-Maleh asserted that, “faced with a permanent interference of Syrian authorities in the daily work of Arab observers, controlling all their movements and preventing them from visiting military areas where thousands of detainees have been transferred, we have not seen the minimum guarantees of independence and credibility for this observers mission to even try to do its job”.
The coalition, including numerous Syrian, Egyptian, Algerian and Sudanese human rights organisations, along with national coalitions from Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen, Iraq and other Arab countries, urge the League not to wait longer for the crisis in Syria to grow uncontrolled as the systemic, brutal use of force on unarmed protesters puts this central Arab country on the brink of a devastating civil war. As of December 12 the UN had over 5,000 documented deaths by Syria’s security forces, including at least 300 children.
Arab League observer Anouar Malek, who resigned from the mission in protest over its credibility and aims, voiced his support for the calls of the coalition:
"I was threatened with death for doing my job as I watched people being killed, beaten up and arrested by police, soldiers and militiamen. The Syrian regime is plainly defying the Arab League. I join the coalition’s call for an end to the mission and immediate action by the UN Security Council."
The 140 Arab organizations call on the Arab League Ministers of Foreign Affairs to address the situation by taking the following measures:
- Publicly releasing the monitoring mission’s report
- Recognizing flaws that have profoundly undermined the work of the monitoring mission.
- Withdrawing the mission and calling for the Security Council to take action to address the ongoing violence in light of the Syrian government’s failure to implement the terms of the Arab League protocol and the Arab roadmap.
- Reiterating a clear call for the immediate cessation of the use of force by Syrian security forces against the civilian population and ensuring that the perpetrators of unlawful killings are held accountable.
“We are approaching a one year of bloodshed and immunity for the Syrian regime of crimes it has allegedly committed. Syrians continue to fall everyday because of their choice to stand bravely to defend their rights to democracy and civil liberties. The unwillingness to cooperate with the Arab League demonstrates the necessity to transfer this portfolio to the Security Council to ensure the accountability of the regime for its acts." said Ziad Abdel Tawab, Deputy Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
For interviews in Arabic, English and French with the Arab organizations below or Arab League observer Anouar Malek please contact firstname.lastname@example.org; +20 1502 208 622
Dr. Radwan Ziadeh, President of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies
Iyas El Maleh, Haitham El Maleh Foundation
Ziad Abdel Tawab, Deputy Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Anouar Malek, resigned member of the Arab League observers mission to Syria
LETTER FROM 140 Arab NGOs to the LAS
Withdraw the mission, call for UN action!
Your Excellency, Dr. Nabil El Araby
Secretary General, League of Arab States
We the undersigned, representing 140 Arab NGOs from 18 Arab countries, urge the League of Arab States to recognize flaws undermining the mission’s efficacy, to publicly release the monitoring mission’s report ahead of the meeting of the Council of Arab Foreign ministers on January 21, to withdraw the monitoring mission at this meeting given the Syrian regime’s failure to implement the terms of the Arab League protocol and to call for the UN Security Council to take action to address the ongoing violence in Syria.
At the first anniversary of the ‘Arab Spring’, we cannot but remember that it demonstrated to the world that cries for basic freedom and democracy can no longer be silenced with bullets. Yet, the Syrian regime continues to respond to these calls by imposing a brutal crackdown against its own citizens. According to the UN, as of December 12 this had resulted in more than 5000 documented deaths, on top of which at least 400 people have been killed during the first three weeks of the monitoring mission.
Since September, the Arab League has worked within its mandate to bring an end to the Syrian crisis. Failure to respect the Arab road map has led to gradual diplomatic sanctions with the suspension of Syria’s membership and a call to remove Arab ambassadors. Then, 18 members of the League have enforced economic sanctions. Finally in the monitoring mission’s protocol signed with the Syrian government on December 19, Syria pledged to end violence against peaceful protesters, release all detainees related to the protests, withdraw armed elements from cities and residential areas and grant unhindered access to all parts of Syria to Arab and international media and to Arab organizations. Syria also pledged in the agreement to grant Arab League monitors unhindered and independent access to all individuals they wish to interview to verify Syria’s implementation of these measures, including victims, detainees and nongovernmental organizations.
One month after the deployment of the Arab League mission the Syrian government has still not fulfilled these commitments. Instead, the UN has estimated that more than 400 people have been killed since the Arab League mission arrived in Syria, while Arab League monitors have “watched people being killed, beaten up, and arrested by police, soldiers and militiamen” in the words of Arab League observer Anouar Malek who has resigned from the mission.
In addition, human rights organizations and members of the opposition have documented numerous attempts by the Syrian government to manipulate the Arab League, including by transferring detainees to sites that League observers were unable to access such as military areas.
The mission’s credibility and efficacy has also been questioned due to a lack of transparency, inadequate staffing and expertise of monitors, inability to protect witnesses and staff, to operate independently from the Syrian government and its inaccessibility to activists and victims on the ground.
We fear the credibility of the League of Arab States will be damaged irreparably despite the leadership it has shown during the past year, unless the League:
Publicly release the monitoring mission’s report.
Recognize flaws that have undermined the work of the monitoring mission.
Withdraw the mission and call for the Security Council to take action to address the ongoing violence in light of the Syrian government’s failure to implement the terms of the Arab League protocol and the Arab roadmap.
Demand an immediate cessation of the use of force against the Syrian people and ensure that the perpetrators of crimes are held accountable.
Citizens of the Arab world share the desire to see an end to the bloodshed in Syria and to see the Arab League play a more active and instrumental role in ending these grave human rights violations against the Syrian population. The Arab world cannot wait for the crisis in Syria to grow uncontrolled, with a clear and immediate threat to the region’s security, stability and prosperity. Syria Cannot Wait!
Advocates for Justice for Syria
Damascus Center for Human Rights
Haitham Maleh Foundation
Strategic Research & Communication Centre
Syrian Human Rights Organization
Syrian Kurdish Youth Abroad
Syrian Human Rights League
Organizations from Arab countries:
Algerian League for Human Rights – Algeria
Al Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment & Human Development – Sudan
Arab Program for Human Rights Activists – Egypt
Arab Coalition for Darfur (110 members, 19 Arab Countries)
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information – Egypt
Assyrian Human Rights Network
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights – Bahrain
Bahrain Center for Human Rights – Bahrain
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies – Egypt
Center for Media Freedom, Middle East and North Africa – Morocco
Committee for the Respect of Liberties and Human Rights in Tunisia – Tunisia
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights – Egypt
Fédération des Tunisiens pour une Citoyenneté des 2 Rives – Tunisia
Human Rights First Society – Saudi Arabia
Iraqi Human Rights Organization – Iraq
Journalists for Human Rights – Sudan
Sudan Social Development Organization – Sudan
The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights – Egypt
The Sahrawi Association of Victims of Human Rights Violations
Tunisian League for Human Rights – Tunisia
Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms – Yemen
Avaaz (represented in most Arab countries)