HRW: Make Human Rights Priority of Geneva Talks on Syria

Participants in the February 23, 2017, UN-sponsored Syria peace talks in Geneva should prioritize five key human rights issues during negotiations, 40 human rights and other organizations said today. The priorities are to end unlawful attacks, ensure aid access and safe passage for fleeing civilians, detainee rights, justice, and security sector reform.

Achieving respect and promotion for human rights during any transition and post-conflict will require key legislative and constitutional amendments to enshrine rights protection in law, the groups said. This should include a constitutional amendment that states that all ratified international treaties and law are binding in Syria. The transformation of Syria into a state that respects human rights and upholds the rule of law should be a Syrian-led process, with transparent reform following local consultations.

“One of the main goals of the Geneva talks should be putting an end to the violations against Syrians who have faced bombing, chemical attacks, starvation, illegal detention, and more horrors,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “To be meaningful, any peace plan should bolster a ceasefire agreement with the respect for human rights.”

Other countries attending the UN-led meetings in Geneva should use their influence over the warring Syrian factions to ensure that the basic human rights of Syrians are on the agenda.

The UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has explained that the agenda at the talks will mirror the objectives outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 from December 2015. In the resolution, the Security Council expressed its support for establishing inclusive and non-sectarian governance, the drafting of a new constitution, and free and fair elections. It emphasized the need for “a ceasefire monitoring, verification and reporting mechanism”; called on the parties to facilitate the unhindered delivery of aid and the release of anyone held arbitrarily; and demanded an end to attacks on civilians and civilian objects and the indiscriminate use of weapons.
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