International Community Must Find Unified Response to Crisis in Syria

PHR calls for Immediate Humanitarian Protection for Civilians

As the bloodshed in Syria—which local organizations report has killed over8,000 people so far—reaches new proportions daily, international actors have beenunable to find an effective response to the crimes against humanity committedby the Assad regime.

In a cynical display of utter neglect for international human rightsnorms and standards, Russia and China blocked the UN Security Council, thehighest international organ charged with the maintenance of peace and security,from addressing the brutal attacks ordered by President Assad.

These attacks include deliberate attacks on civilians, the killing ofwomen and children, the detention and arrests of protesters and politicalactivists, the use of human shields, and severe violations of medicalneutrality that force patients to seek medical treatment in makeshift “undergroundhospitals” run by medical staff who are risking their own lives. Governmentforces have also blocked communication, electricity, and other necessities fromHoms, a city besieged by Assad’s forces.

With the failure of the Arab League Monitors to mediate the bloodshedand their departure from Syria, President Assad has completely sealed off hiscountry from any international observers and has barred the international mediafrom documenting the brutal attack against his own people.

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the violence inSyria and backing an Arab League plan for the removal of President Assad frompower. The nonbinding resolution garnered significant international support andsends a strong signal about the international community’s stance against theAssad regime, but it is insufficient to halt the ongoing violence.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) calls for stronger measures,including a UN Security Council referral of Syria to the International CriminalCourt, which are essential to stem the bloodshed and hold the most seriousperpetrators accountable for their crimes.

As the international community considers the next steps in its responseto the mass atrocities in Syria, PHR urges the immediate adoption of thefollowing steps to provide at least a modicum of humanitarian protection to thecivilian population in Syria:

To the Government of Syria:

  • Immediately end all attacks on civilians,including killings, torture, and violations of medical neutrality.
  • Thoroughly investigate and prosecute all thoseresponsible for human rights violations, and begin a comprehensive vettingprocess to remove all perpetrators from government.
  • Provide compensation and rehabilitation for allvictims of violence related to the popular uprisings.

To Syria’s regional neighbors, including Jordan, Lebanon, Türkiye, andIraq:

  • Support a ceasefire agreement, if reached, bynot actively contributing to continued conflict in Syria.
  • Open borders with Syria to humanitarian operations,including supplies and other resources, and allow humanitarian organizations toset up operations along those borders.
  • Allow the international community to establish andmaintain safe zones near the Syrian border for Syrian refugees.
  • Facilitate the access of regional medicalassociations and humanitarian agencies to enter Syria and deliver medical careand other assistance.

To the United States:

  • Provide financial and material support for theunderground health care network in Syria, including the provision of medicalsupplies.
  • Provide financial support to Syria’s neighbors,including Jordan, Lebanon, Türkiye, and Iraq, for their efforts to provide safezones for Syrians escaping violence.
  • Support the work of the United Nations HighCommissioner for Refugees in the countries bordering Syria.
  • Pass the Syria Human Rights Accountability Actof 2012, introduced in the Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, which wouldauthorize increased sanctions on individual violators of human rights in Syria.

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