The UPR Working Group on Syria – one of the countries reviewed during the 12th Session – recognised a number of positive achievements in its draft report, including Syria’s much lauded decision to reinstate citizenship rights to the many of its citizens of Kurdish origin. However, the Working Group also reinforced the serious human rights concerns, highlighted by the KHRP which can now too often be seen and heard of in the reports coming out of Syria. These include extra-judicial killing; the use of torture and ill-treatment by State agents; gender violence, such as honour killings; and the widespread practice of arbitrary and incommunicado detention and death in custody. Whilst such practices happen across Syria, the number and level of such abuses has always been higher in the Kurdish region of the country, as part of the state’s policy and practice to suppress its Kurdish population.
KHRP is pleased that many of the recommendations made by the Working Group were reflected in the concerns KHRP submitted to the UPR, including conclusions and recommendations to immediately release all those arbitrary arrested and to make incommunicado detention illegal, as well as to ensure that all detainees are afforded all fundamental safeguards from the outset of their detention, such as the right to have prompt access to a lawyer and to notify a relative. The Working Group also recognized that current legislative mechanisms continue to facilitate and entrench abuse and cultural repression against women, as it recommended that Syria adopt and enforce laws against domestic violence and remove mitigating factors from the punishment of honour crimes against women. Additional recommendations include the adoption of measures to end all direct and indirect restrictions on freedom of expression, as well as to cease human rights violations against civilians in relation to their peaceful exercise of freedom and assembly.
Unfortunately, though unsurprisingly, Syria took the position that many of these recommendations have already been implemented. Syria also refused to support a number of recommendations, including the recommendation that it guarantee the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of persons belonging to its Kurdish minority or the rights of women. The government continues to deny its discrimination against these groups. KHRP hopes that Syria will recognize the reality of continuing discrimination against its Kurdish population and implement the necessary measures to curb such discrimination.
‘KHRP strongly urges all concerned actors to encourage the Syrian administration to accept the UPR’s recommendations. This necessitates that the Syrian government recognize the existence and breadth of gross continuing human rights violations, undertake thorough and expedient investigations into allegations of such violations, and take steps towards ameliorating and eliminating those violations found, including the violations inflicted on women and ethnic minorities, said KHRP Chief Executive Kerim Yildiz. ‘Moreover, a far greater effort is needed on behalf of the Syrian authorities, as well as the international community, to develop a coordinated strategy to educate citizens and officials alike of their respective rights and obligations, as well as clearly define and support the mechanisms required for the prevention and redress of systemic violations.’