Human Rights

UN Human Rights Council slams Syria regime

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

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Supporters of Lebanon's Hizbullah carry portraits of Iran's Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei as they march in the Lebanese town of Kfar Hatta on March 18th during the funeral of a Hizbullah fighter who died in combat in Syria. A new UN Human Rights Council resolution strongly condemns foreign militias fighting alongside Syria's regime. [Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP]

A new resolution on the human rights situation in Syria "strongly condemns" in the same document both the Syrian regime and its allies and terror groups operating in Syria.

In a resolution adopted on March 24th, the UN Human Rights Council strongly condemned "the continued systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and affiliated militias".

The resolution leveled sharp criticism at foreign organisations battling on behalf of the Syrian regime, particularly Lebanon's Hizbullah, expressing "deep concern that their involvement further exacerbates the deteriorating situation" in Syria.

The resolution also denounced "terrorist acts and violence committed against civilians" by the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), al-Nusra Front (ANF) and other terrorist groups.

It expressed concern at the findings of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, including those suggesting that the violations committed in Aleppo amounted to war crimes, in particular by the Syrian regime and its allies.

Findings strongly suggest that pro-regime forces committed the war crimes of intentionally targeting protected objects under international law, it said, including medical personnel and transport.

The resolution also condemned "the widespread practice of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and the use of sexual violence, torture and ill-treatment, especially in detention facilities run by the Syrian authorities".

Human rights abuses

"Putting the Syrian regime, ISIL and Hizbullah in one basket with regard to human rights in Syria and violations of international humanitarian law will further tighten the noose around Hizbullah, regime forces and affiliated sectarian militias," said Syrian lawyer Bashir al-Bassam.

International governments and political, security and humanitarian institutions are in consensus with regard to the crimes committed by ISIL, a designated terrorist group, he told Diyaruna.

However, the situation is different when it comes to the Syrian regime and its supporting militias, as opinions differ on this matter, he added.

"The presentation of evidence by UN institutions, committees and missions on the continued violations of human rights and humanitarian law will certainly clarify the picture officially," he said, with regard to the Syrian regime, affiliated militias and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is the main backer of foreign militias fighting alongside the Syrian regime.

Syrian human rights bodies are preparing "verified lists of names of all detainees in Syrian prisons, in addition to lists of the names of those who died under torture in these detention centres", he said.

This documentation will include the testimonies of dozens of former prisoners, and of civilians in areas that were besieged and stormed by militias fighting alongside the regime, he added.

By condemning Lebanon's Hizbullah, the new UN resolution also condemns its backer, the IRGC, Iranian affairs researcher Fathi al-Sayed told Diyaruna.

"The resolution referred to the violations and crimes that took place during the Aleppo battles and said they amount to war crimes," he said.

It noted that these crimes were committed by the Syrian regime and its allies, who attacked civilians and medical teams operating in the besieged areas of Aleppo, he said, adding that civilians suffered direct abuses when pro-regime militias entered these districts.

Investigation will continue

The UN resolution extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry for one year, said international law expert Khairuddin Abdel-Metaal, who lectures at Egypt's Assiut University.

"This extension came not because there is not sufficient incriminating evidence in these cases," he said. "On the contrary, there is ample evidence, but it needs to be backed further with firm evidence based on proven facts and testimonies on what is taking place."

The investigation covers a wide spectrum, he said, including acts of terrorism that target civilians, the obstruction of the delivery of humanitarian aid and arbitrary arrests and detentions.

The resolution focused on the use of multiple methods of torture, including sexual violence and ill-treatment in Syrian detention centres, he said.

The resolution is significant as "it called for facilitating the Commission of Inquiry’s mission and alluded to resorting to the International Criminal Court as a last resort in the case of the parties, especially states, that try to escape punishment for the crimes they committed", he said.

"This allusion is the most important since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis and a clear threat directed at the Syrian regime to force it to co-operate fully with the ongoing investigations and to pressure it to open its detention centres and prisons to reveal the real conditions in them," he said.

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