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Arab states can’t whitewash Syria’s human rights report | Syria’s Warfare

“I fled the battle in Syria to hunt refuge in Lebanon… Now Lebanon deported me again to Syria the place the identical authorities I fled from continues to rule with an iron fist. I’ll both be arrested, conscripted, tortured, or starve to loss of life. But it surely doesn’t matter [which one] as a result of the outcome is identical – I’m doomed,” Ashraf informed me.

His despair echoes the emotions of Syrian refugees internationally as they watch Arab states welcome again Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Arab League. Ashraf considers current developments because the Arab world’s “grand betrayal” of the Syrian rebellion.

Certainly, the rapprochement of Arab states with Syria is hypocritical, to say the least. After a decade of condemning the Syrian authorities’s crimes and violations in opposition to its personal folks, Arab leaders are welcoming it again, disregarding the prison accountability it nonetheless holds.

The speech of Jordan’s King Abdullah on the Arab League summit on Could 19 is kind of indicative of what Arab states search to realize. “The brotherly Syrian folks paid a excessive value [during the Syrian conflict] which had repercussions on us all. In the present day we welcome the return of Syria to the Arab League as an vital step we hope will contribute to the efforts towards ending the disaster,” he mentioned.

However regardless of how a lot Arab leaders put money into rehabilitating the Syrian authorities’s picture via invites to world conferences and diplomatic overtures, they will be unable to erase 12 years of conflict crimes and crimes in opposition to humanity it dedicated.

It might sound naive to recommend that Arab states ought to be invested within the safety of human rights in Syria provided that many have abysmal rights information at residence. Nevertheless, they do have a accountability to make sure that the current thaw in relations doesn’t embolden the Syrian authorities to additional trample on human rights.

Some Arab states, akin to Jordan and Lebanon, have already began exploiting Syria’s return to the Arab fold to push for the return of refugees. Jordan is trying to garner regional assist for its “voluntary return” scheme, whereas Lebanon has ramped up compelled deportations.

In the meantime, it doesn’t appear that the Syrian authorities is focused on making severe political concessions or enhancing its rights report in an effort to “finish the disaster”. As an alternative of taking steps to make sure refugees’ voluntary, protected and dignified return, Syrian authorities are utilizing the refugee card to press Arab states for monetary assist and assist for reconstruction whereas persevering with to inflict terror on returnees.

One refugee who had been despatched again from Lebanon just lately informed me that he was arrested by the Syrian military and needed to pay all his financial savings – about $1,500 – to be launched. His buddies who had additionally been deported with him are nonetheless being held by the Syrian military’s Fourth Division as they’re unable to pay for his or her launch.

I additionally heard about Lebanon’s current arrest and deportation of 4 males, who had abandoned from the Syrian military. As soon as on Syrian soil, they had been transferred to the Palestine Department, an intelligence division infamous for its use of torture and different ill-treatment in the direction of detainees.

The detention and mistreatment of returnees are a part of the Syrian authorities’s systematic violations, together with arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and different ill-treatment, deaths in detention and extrajudicial executions following sham trials, which represent crimes in opposition to humanity.

The size of those atrocities, dedicated with full impunity, escalated after the onset of the rebellion in 2011, however the Syrian authorities had been perpetrating them for a number of many years earlier than that to stifle dissent. These crimes haven’t solely devastated the Syrian inhabitants however have additionally produced a number of human rights crises, together with the one with Syria’s greater than 100,000 disappeared.

Since 2011, I’ve spoken to scores of ladies whose sons, husbands, brothers or different kinfolk have been forcibly disappeared for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceable meeting, conducting humanitarian work or just for being perceived as opposition sympathisers.

These ladies informed me concerning the immense psychological toll that dwelling in perpetual uncertainty concerning the destiny of their family members has taken on them, as they’ve struggled with authorities denials and inadequate assist from the worldwide neighborhood. They – and Syrians basically – deserve higher.

Arab international locations have a accountability in the direction of the folks of Syria they can’t proceed to keep away from. They should publicly acknowledge the Syrian authorities’s horrible human rights report, finish refoulement of Syrian refugees and name for accountability, an finish to the usage of torture and different ill-treatment and enforced disappearances. They need to use their leverage over the Syrian authorities to make sure the protected voluntary return of refugees.

Additional, the households of the lacking and survivors are pushing the UN Basic Meeting to determine an unbiased physique tasked with investigating the destiny and whereabouts of the disappeared. They want the assist of Arab states; it’s essential that, when the time comes, all Arab states vote in favour of making this establishment.

Something in need of that can be a message to the Syrian authorities – and to others within the area – that committing atrocity crimes on a mass scale carries no penalties on the world stage.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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