Geneva, 17 November 2023 (TDI): The UN Syria Commission of Inquiry agreed with the important order from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague that the Syrian Arab Republic must do everything it can to stop torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishments or treatments.
The order also requires Syria to ensure that its officials, as well as entities or individuals under its control, direction, or influence, refrain from engaging in such acts.
Chairman Paulo Pinheiro of the UN Syria Commission referred to this order as a landmark decision by the top international court to halt torture, enforced disappearances, and fatalities within Syrian detention facilities.
Pinheiro noted that while individual Syrians have faced criminal trials for war crimes, this marks the first instance of the Syrian State participating in a judicial process, mandated to defend its record of Convention against Torture violations before international justices.
The ICJ’s decision also mandates Syria to implement effective measures preventing the destruction of evidence related to allegations falling under the Convention against Torture, such as medical records.
Commissioner Hanny Megally expresses hope that this process renews the prospects for justice for the tens of thousands who have suffered arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment, disappearances, and death in Syrian detention facilities.
Megally emphasized the long-term suffering experienced by detainees and their families, calling for the government to implement overdue measures.
The Commission’s July 2023 report brought attention to the serious physical and mental harm that survivors had experienced, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
This includes impaired bodily functions, chronic physical pain, mental health disorders, and suicides among torture victims.
Commissioner Lynn Welchman underscored the significant impact of sexual violence on women, men, girls, and boys in Syrian detention.
Welchman welcomed the Court’s order, and Welchman expects the government to fully implement it, emphasizing the need for immediate action.
The ICJ delivered this order following a joint application by Canada and the Netherlands, filed in June, seeking proceedings against Syria for alleged violations of the Convention against Torture.
The application aimed to secure provisional measures for the protection of individuals within Syria at risk of torture or other cruel treatment.
During the public hearing in October, the applicants referenced various Commission reports documenting widespread patterns of torture and inhuman treatment in Syrian detention facilities since 2011.
Background information on the Commission, Since March 2011, the UN Human Rights Council has given it the authority to look into and record violations of international law in the Syrian Arab Republic.
The Commission Chair, Paulo Pinheiro, has highlighted Syria’s decades-long practices of arbitrary detention and torture as triggers for the protests in 2011, escalating into the ongoing civil war.
recently informed the UN General Assembly of the significant escalation in hostilities in Syria, emphasizing the urgent need for international attention and intervention.