Statement in Memory of Sunila Abesekera

29 May 2012

WILPF makes this statement in memory of Sunila Abesekera, a defender of human rights and a women’s rights activist. Abesekera reminded us on many occasions to protect and defend human rights. In that spirit, there are many, many, human rights defenders in Syria struggling to uphold laws and morality. At the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council, WILPF brought activists from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to tell you that there is huge constituency of men and women, non-violent activists, who advocate for a negotiated settlement and an end to this conflict.  Their voices are still absent from the debates in the international arena. Instead, those who are directly involved in continuing the violence in Syria are taking away the voice of the Syrian people.

The Commission of Inquiry has identified that the State Apparatus has violated both human rights and international humanitarian law. Forces within the opposition have also perpetrated crimes against humanity.

The commission has identified that the most heinous crimes are being committed, in particular by the State Apparatus. Those crimes include torture, hostage-taking, murder and rape. We echo the report: “the perpetrators of these violations and crimes, on all sides, act in defiance of international law. They do not fear accountability”.

WILPF would like to draw your attention to the fact that on August 4 in the northwestern countryside of Lattakia, an armed anti-government group called al-Muhajereen Battalion kidnapped 105 women and children. The battalion has stated they will release the captives in exchange for combatants imprisoned by the Syrian government, which continues to refuse to engage in negotiations with the kidnappers. We ask the government of Syria and other relevant members to immediately commence negotiations with the involved parties in this abduction.

What will you do with this information?

3 million people will be in extreme poverty by the end of the year and 6 million by the end of next unless there is some 3.8 billion dollars in aid and the ability to deliver it. But everyone knows that this money will not be found. It will be mainly children, women and the elderly who will die as a result of this conflict as basic social and economic rights erode and fighters assume priority.

This is the Human Rights Council. Every State in this room has power, and with power comes responsibility. There is a system of law you are obligated to uphold.

It is clear from the ICJ jurisprudence that the arming and training of rebels is a violation of both treaty and customary international law.

It is clear under numerous Security Council resolutions that the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms to terrorists is a violation of public international law.

It is clear under SCR 208 (3) that transferring arms to States that facilitate their passage to terrorists is unlawful. While the Arms Trade Treaty is not yet in force, it is clear through the compelling logic under IHL and R2P that transferring weapons when there are violations of human rights or IHL is prohibited.

It is clear from the SCRs on women peace and security that the women must not be excluded in negotiations for peace.

It is also clear that there is a system for the enforcement of these laws.

Parties with responsibility in the Syrian conflict:

  •  Russia in arming the Syrian government.
  • The United States, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in arming Syrian rebels.
  • Qatar in facilitating the transfer of Libyan weapons to Syrian rebels
  • Saudi Arabia in transferring arms through Jordan and purchasing Croatian weapon stockpiles
  • Turkey in helping facilitate transfer of arms.
  • Militants in Iraq in supplying weapons to Syrian rebels
  • Jordan and Turkey in allowing the stockpiling and warehousing of arms.
  • Qatar, Saudi Arabia and U.S. in monetarily funding Syrian rebels
  • US, UK, France in training rebels in Jordan

The cynicism and hypocrisy in the responses to this war is outstanding. The Russian company Rosoboronexport is the main supplier of weapons to Assad. The US signed an arms deal with Russian company worth up to 1 billion USD so as to provide arms to Afghanistan. All actors in the supply chain of weapons and military assistance to Syria, whether they are individual companies, states or individual brokers, must be held accountable.

If you are unclear on the law then request the GA to refer the matter to the ICJ but do it quickly.

If you want to end impunity, demand the SC to refer the situation to the ICC so that there will be Justice, legal justice and not revenge and retribution.

If you uphold human rights and international law, then as States you must ensure an end to the provision of arms to all parties.

It is disingenuous to continue to discuss military intervention when that intervention is already there by proxy. There is only one long-term solution and that is for political negotiation to bring in Syrian voices who advocate an end to this horror.

You have responsibilities, you have the ability to take those responsibilities seriously and stop this war. Your failure to do so will bring disgrace to the multi-lateral system that was meant to prevent these horrors and has failed. Do it. Now.