Message delivered by Mazen Darwish to Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy of the United Nations for Syria

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Mazen Darwish is the Director of SCM (Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression), FIDH member organisation in Syria.

Geneva, 5 February 2016

Mr. Staffan de Mistura,

I hesitated at length before responding to your kind invitation; because – as a Syrian citizen – I have been feeling let down and sensing futility due to the failure of the international community to take up its moral and political responsibilities throughout the last five years; and lest for taking part in an event pre-designed away from our aspirations and desires as Syrian citizens who have the full right and legitimacy to live with dignity, freedom and justice; all until a friend told me “Not participating is a personal luxury you cannot afford in light of what our country is going through”.

Mr. de Mistura: What started in Syria as a peaceful, demand-driven movement based on values of democracy and human rights has transformed into a new world war – due to the stubbornness and violence of the regime in Syria on one side, and political exploitation of regional and international parties and terrorism groups on the other side – only this time the war takes place in one country: Syria; a war whose catastrophic repercussions on the humanitarian level is the most severe since World War II; and with one victim: the Syrian people.

Before this tragic reality, we have no alternative but the political solution in Syria to stop this catastrophic war that is based on the despotism-terrorism nexus; while ascertaining that any political solution that does not establish for a civilian, democratic, pluralistic rule based on citizenship and freedom of belief and expression will only practically prolong the war and be a beginning to a new cycle of conflict.

Mr. de Mistura: Today, millions of Syrian look forward to the Geneva negotiations as a sign for hope for riddance of the scourge of war, despotism and terrorism and to head forward to a safe future for their children and families; especially after you reiterated in your speech that “this one cannot fail”.

To ensure the possibility of success for this conference, foundations need to be laid down immediately to guarantee solving a number of rights issues, irrespective of the political course and its complexities. All parties to the negotiation need to commit and be bound to confidence-building measures that were entailed in a number of UN resolutions especially the UNSC Res. 2139/2014, 2165/2014 and 2254/2015 which stipulates that these measures are above negotiation; which in turn implies a number of measures while guaranteeing their executive mechanisms, particularly:

All parties of the conflict and negotiation in Syria are to commit to immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such and civilian infrastructure; including attacks against medical facilities and personnel, and any indiscriminate use of weapons, including through shelling and aerial bombardment; as well as immediately refraining from the use of internationally prohibited weapons such as cluster bombs and chemical weapons; leading up to a declaration of a comprehensive ceasefire.

All parties of the negotiation should commit to impose a moratorium on death sentences in cases related to current events as of 2011 in Syria; especially those sentences handed by the First and Second Military Field Courts as well as the Damascus Counterterrorism Court, and all forms of military and extraordinary tribunals, and all forms of Sharia Courts and courts of military factions.

Ending the siege on all besieged areas and absolute commitment by parties of negotiations – especially the Syrian government – to not use hunger as a weapon under any pretext, and guaranteeing access of all food and medical supplies and securing necessary treatment to all injured and patients, as well as guaranteeing unconditional freedom of movement and safety for all besieged civilians.

Release of all those arbitrarily-detained, prisoners of conscience, women, children, and all those arrested and kidnapped on grounds of the conflict by all parties to the negotiation process.

Establishing a Syrian national institution under UN auspices to be responsible for the portfolio of detainees in Syria; one that would open up all detention and arrest facilities run by the Syrian Government and its security agencies, agencies of National Defense Forces and popular committees, as well as the detention facilities of the opposition military factions for local and international inspectors, and local and international humanitarian and rights organizations, and grant accredited international and local detention facility inspectors free access to all detention facilities, formal and informal, without notice. In addition, parties of the conflict taking part in the negotiations should commit to provide the United Nations with official lists of all its detainees and arrestees held by them including respective place, date, reason for arrest as well as the outstanding charges.

Establishing a Syrian national institution under UN auspices to be responsible for the issue disappeared persons, human remains and unidentified mass graves in Syria. Such an institution should have an international mandate for investigation; including the ability to review all formal records, interview any official, and using any scientific, technical or legal means necessary to identify the human remains via forensics and reclaim them. In addition, parties of the conflict taking part in the negotiations should commit to provide the United Nations with official lists of persons whom the death sentence was applied on basis of legal or Sharia verdicts; as well as lists of persons who passed away in detention facilities; referring to their places of burial.

Suspending all arrest warrants and travel ban orders issued by the Damascus Counterterrorism Court, National Security Bureau and all security agencies against political dissidents, social actors and civilian activists, and guaranteeing freedom of political and peaceful civilian activity by parties to the negotiation.

Granting Syrian and international civil society organizations special permits to operate within Syrian territory under UN auspices, and declaring the city of Damascus and all capital cities of governorates and capital cities of areas under control of parties to the negotiations green zones where these parties guarantee all reasons of protection and safety of these organizations and their staff, as well as of journalists and Syrian and international media outlets.

Mazen Darwish

A Syrian Citizen

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