Local Coordination Committees: “VN Veiligheidsraad moet onmiddelijk een mechanisme vinden om Syrische burgers te beschermen””

In deze brief analyseren de Local Coordination Committees (LCCs) in Syrie de VN waarnemersmissie tot nu toe en concluderen dat een herziening van het Annan-plan nodig is. Het mandaat van de missie moet volgens de LCCs versterkt worden zodat ze beter in staat is om Syrische burgers te beschermen. Daarvoor zijn o.a. de volgende maatregelen nodig:

– toename van het aantal waarnemers zodat ze permanent aanwezig kunnen zijn in alle brandhaarden

– bescherming van o.a. veldziekenhuizen en begrafenissen door waarnemers

– duidelijk onderscheid tussen de militaire en civiele waarnemers

– een taak voor de waarnemers in het verzamelen van bewijsmateriaal om vervolging bij het Internationaal Strafhof van de verantwoordelijken voor ernstige schendingen van mensenrechten mogelijk te maken

– verbeteren van de capaciteit van waarnemers om met de lokale bevolking om te gaan

– het mogelijk maken van “embedded” journalisten ondergebracht de VN missie

Lees hier de volledige analyse en aanbevelingen van de LCCs:

Letter on the Work of the UN Observers’ Mission

by لجان التنسيق المحلية في سوريا on Monday, 4 June 2012 at 10:32 ·

At the dawn of the Syrian people’s uprising, the Revolution established the goals of complete, unified nationaland human values. In choosing peaceful struggle and means, the Revolution stepped up its demands, going from demanding change at the local level to demanding the regime’s ouster. At the same time, we have witnessed increasing repression by the regime. Syrians are aware of the heavy burden imposed upon them by the regime’s impact on this country’s future and the integrity of Syria’s social fabric and unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity should the regime continue to rule the country. The regime is struggling to survive and maintain more than four decades of repression, and uses extreme violence to crush all forms of peaceful assembly and association and free expression, promotes social divisions along factional and sectarian lines.

The regime works to maintain power by building alliances with civilian organizations in a number of neighboring countries as a means of exporting its crisis rather than facing up to its responsibilities, brought about by its own policies. Since the beginning of the uprising, the regime has systematically resorted to lies, claiming the existence of Islamic fundamentalists, Palestinian gunmen, and terrorists as part of a vile foreign conspiracy to change the power structure and its relationship to society. With the expansion of the uprising, the regime has taken advantage of neighboring states’ anxieties about chaos in this fragile region of the world, and has played on the international community’s concerns of armed groups of a particular religious nature.

However, the regime’s practices of brutality, murder, torture, bombing, and invading cities and towns has not stopped for 15 months; during this period, the regime has been unable to seize any of the many opportunities presented to achieve a political solution. Rather, the regime has used the cover of its lies to justify even further repression as a means of crushing the uprising. In recent months it has become increasingly clear, especially after Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution condemning the regime, that this regime has any social or historical legitimacy to justify its continuing rule in Syria. The regime’s survival, in fact, has become completely dependent on foreign forms of political, economic, military, and technical support.

We in the Local Coordination Committees in Syria (LCC) understand that the regime’s behavior, and its failure to respond to a political solution, risks turning Syria into a failed state. The regime’s constant denial in facing a popular revolution has placed Syria at the heart of the game of nations and the interests of world powers. We believe that the recent UNSC Resolution No. 2043, issued on April 21, 2012, was developed in the context of a vision that does not do justice to the Syrian people, or the sacrifices of her men and women. This has been a stumbling block in the face of one of the most popular revolutions for change and progress since the French Revolution of 1798. We believe it is unfair for world powers to hold hostage the fate of our country, or our identity, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and social unity simply for their divergent interests. Moreover, it is unfair for our people’s legitimate goals of freedom and dignity, and our desire to build a modern state, to be left to other parties’ conflicts as they settle regional and international scores amid strategic and sectarian interests.

Our people have the right to change our corrupt and criminal system of government without bargaining, and we insist on continuing our people’s Revolution and minimizing the cost of change. This has led us to submit this letter. We understand that today’s situation in Syria has become “internationalized” under the plan of Mr. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, through UNSC Resolution 2043, and Mr. Annan’s subsequent consultations in Syria and Iran, and with the Arab League, China, and Russia.

Today, this conflict is a moral and political zero-sum game. This is no longer acceptable or justified when considering what is happening in Syria, without regard to the values and principles of ethics embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international covenants. We also understand that the Resolution has no bearing on the reality on the ground. While the Resolution and the nature of the UN Observers’ work would be positive in a classic conflict that involves gunfire (i.e., two parties engaged in clashes, and logically, each with fixed military positions launching fire); however, the regime’s army, security services, and shabiha militiamen engage in the daily practice of invading cities and towns and killing peaceful protesters. Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army operates in defense of a legitimate, moral, and legal mission to protect civilians in their presence so as to ensure civilians’ right to peaceful expression, demonstration, and assembly.

We are also aware that the logic and language in the Resolution reflects the will of the Russian Federation to protect the Syrian regime, and affords the regime more time in which to attempt to crush the great national uprising in Syria. It is unfortunate that the current work of United Nations Observer Mission in Syria remains within this framework. Based on our own investigation, we have determined that the UN Observer Mission has consciously provided the regime with political cover. Therefore, the UN Observer Mission is not substantively different from that found in the Arab League’s Observer Mission. The practices of the UN Observers on the ground confirm that their current mission has been convoluted with political goals, and this is tantamount to putting the cart before the horse.

The Annan Plan indicates a gradual start to the cease-fire, and continues through the process of creating an environment favorable for dialogue, the release of detainees, the return of those displaced, the independent media’s unfettered access, and the right to peaceful protest. There is political will and implicit consensus as Mr.Annan and his team coordinate with the Russian Federation to achieve a cease-fire simultaneously with the process of dialogue. The UN Monitors have further emphasized this concept by inquiring, of our activists on the ground, about the possibility of dialogue with the regime at a time when the regime’s military has bombed areas the Observers have visited; the Observers have witnessed the regime’s acts of intimidation of civilians – a move designed to deter citizens from interacting with the UN Observers when they have access to them.

With the spate of recent massacres, and specifically the Houla Massacre, it is clear that the UNSC should dedicate itself, without delay, to finding a mechanism by which civilians can be protected. It has become evident and certain that the uprising is growing increasingly more difficult to crush, and the regime will not change its policy of repression. There appears to be no prospect of a political settlement that can be effected in manner that meets the spirit of the UNSC Resolution and the work of the Observer Mission. Thus far, the work of the UN Observers has not shown any tangible results in terms of improving physical, humanitarian, or political conditions in the eyes of Syrian citizens. They await the results of significant change in the regime’s behavior with regard to demonstrations and peaceful civilian protests.

Based on the foregoing, we are aware that the UN Observer Mission has lost any justification to continue its work on the ground unless the UNSC issues a new Resolution that expands the Observers’ functions, and holds the Syrian regime accountable for its actions. A new UNSC resolution must also improve the Observers’ efficiency in order to protect the lives of Syrian civilians. Activists have accumulated facts and have been monitoring the following indicators since the beginning of the work of the UN Observers:

1. There has been a relative reduction in violence since the beginning of the UN Observer Mission started on April 12, 2012. This is demonstrated through a comparison of the monthly number of martyrs before and after the start of the UN Observers’ work. In February 2012, the number of martyrs reached 1,623; it rose to 1,704 in March, and peaked in the few remaining days of the month prior to the start of the UN Observers’ Mission. We documented 900 new martyrs between April 1 and April 12, and the final death toll for the entire month of April was 1,626. The death toll dropped to fewer than 800 martyrs until May 23. This means that the murder rate per day fell by half, in the sense that the volume of violence by the system was confined to limits that had not been in place before the UN Observers’ arrival. However, the regime has continued its daily practice of shelling with heavy weapons, sniping activists, conducting field executions, torturing prisoners to death in prisons and detention centers, displacing residents from besieged areas, looting and destroying activists’ property, conducting arbitrary arrest campaigns, prosecuting without cause, and prohibiting travel.

2. During the last week of May 2012, we noted a return to the high rates of daily killing as we documented  more than 500 martyred in various cities across Syria. This perhaps points to the fact that the regime benefited from the international situation created by having the UN Observers on the ground. In addition, this indicates that the regime adapted to the presence of UN Observers and their monitoring methods. The regime has threatened to escalate its violence despite the presence of the Observers.

3. The total number of martyrs recorded, since the start of the UN Observer Mission on April 12, 2012 and  until May 31, 2012 was 2,035, including 125 women, 157 male children, and 46 female children. These martyrs fell after a series of bombings and invasions that took place in a number of neighborhoods in the city of Homs and its surrounding suburbs (Rastan, Qosair, and Houla); Aleppo and its surroundingsuburbs (Atareb, Bab); Hama and its suburbs (Soran and the towns in Sahl Al-Ghab); the city of Deir Ezzor and its surrounding suburbs; Damascus and its surrounding suburbs (Domair, Douma); the countryside of Idlib province (the towns and villages of Jabal Zawieh and Jisr Al-Shoghour); and the city of Daraa and its suburbs (Hirak and the refugee camp). There is barely a single town or city in Syria that has not reported army or security checkpoints at city entrances or city centers, in addition to army and security agents and shabiha, even in instances of a weak or non-existent protest movement.

4. At the request of residents and activists, the UN Observers visited most of these areas on separate  occasions. The regime’s military systematically bombed and raided these areas upon the UN Observers’ departure, without exception, so as to remind local residents of the punishment for speaking with the Observers and to prevent future re-engagement. While residents have learned to engage the Observers more quickly, leading to a relative and temporary reduction in violence, the regime has escalated its violence against residents after the UN Observers’ departure.

5. The number of UN Observers present in Syria today is extremely low compared to the size of popular  protests, the scale of repressive tactics, and the geographical distribution. This has led to Observers moving from one region to another, thereby weakening their role in terms of monitoring the cease-fire and maintaining the relative calm between rounds of violence.

6. There is confusion as to the nature of the UN Observers’ work in Syria. While their number and presence are limited, the UNSC Resolution and the Annan Plan characterized the Mission as one tasked with quickly monitoring and verifying the alleged cease-fire, which has already led to reduced levels of  violence as evidenced by the reduction in the daily number of martyrs. However, the relationship between the Observers and Syrian citizens and activists fluctuates between monitoring missions, and activists and citizens are unsure of the actual goals. They anticipated that the UN Observers would work in terms of a peacekeeping team. The level of confusion is heightened when citizens and activists do not know the nature or objectives of the monitoring missions. Is the mission a military patrol with officers monitoring the cease-fire? Or is the mission for the Observers to periodically investigate the humanitarian situation in the besieged areas? Or is it an active fact-finding mission to determine local citizens’ views on dialogue with the regime? This confusion, or ambiguity, has garnered angry reactions from residents of the most besieged areas. Moreover, the confusion is increased in that many Observers are unaware of social norms and acceptable behavior, and failed to note cultural differences between their home countries and Syria’s social environment. Several Observers have refused to speak with residents; their unwillingness to exit their vehicles and engage in discussion has been interpreted as disregard, disrespect, and a lack of civility, further angering residents and activists and causing many of them to refuse to cooperate with the Observer Mission. This occurred on multiple occasions, particularlyin Domair and Douma in the Damascus suburbs.

7. With regard to Civilian Observers (who are few at 50 in comparison to the 300 Military Observers), the  nature of their work is also confusing. These Observers ask for information about detainees and detention centers, without explaining to residents and activists the actual goals. In light of the lack of any positive results thus far, this confusion has begun to negatively impact the level of interaction with Observers.

8. Much to the chagrin of residents of besieged areas, the UN Observers are often accompanied by regime  security agents or patrols. Even if these regime representatives confine themselves to conducting remote surveillance or to monitoring the Observers’ work, their mere presence is an intimidating factor that  inhibits residents from communicating with other Observers.

9. As indicated previously in this letter, the fact that the UN Observers have requested that activists speak about “political dialogue” is a leap from the rest of the terms of the Annan Plan, and we are unaware of a single instance in which the regime has implemented it. In the eyes of Syrian citizens and activists, this shift indicates that the UN Observers and the Annan Plan itself are aligned with the regime and therefore have no more credibility and objectivity. The popular uprising has persevered, and the forces of the Syrian movement have utterly rejected the notion of any dialogue that does not result in toppling the regime and its supporters.

Based on the above, we suggest the following:

1. That the number of UN Observers be increased in the foreseeable future to match their duties. The number of Observers should be sufficient to cover the areas of uprising by fixed points and mobile patrols in nearby areas so that presence might achieve relative calm and reduce the regime’s daily murder rate and oppressive practices.

2. Observers should be stationed at specific locations clearly marked as UN sites through UN colors and the UN flag, particularly in hotspots besieged by regime forces with heavy weapons. The UN Observers should also undertake patrols, concentrating on army and security checkpoints, sniper positions, andother sources of gunfire. The presence of UN Observers at these sites would ensure pressure to observe the cease-fire.

3. Many of the cities and towns that have witnessed security sieges, small-arms fire, and random detention campaigns need more control points and random patrols on a daily basis.

4. The Observers should escort large gatherings, such as demonstrations and funerals, since their presence offers relative protection and contributes in guaranteeing Syrians’ right to peaceful assembly and expression. This will also help to restore confidence in the UN Observer Mission’s role.

5. Monitoring points should be positioned near field hospitals in hotspots in order to provide relative protection to the injured and minimize the likelihood of arrest, murder, torture, or prevention from entering hospitals.

6. The limited number of Civilian Observers at the present time can be compensated for by creating Internet chat rooms that link them to Syrian activists (e.g., lawyers, politicians, and LCC activists) to register complaints, comments, and suggestions.

7. The work of the military and civilian observers should be separate and distinct. The Civilian Observers’ missions must include meetings with the families of victims and documentation of their testimonies, including hearing complaints from those affected and monitoring detainee lists in order to keep track of their conditions and their files, to investigate the fate of those who have been forcibly disappeared. This change could create a more favorable impression of the Observers and their mission in the hearts of Syrians. This could also encourage activists to communicate with them, either in person or through a network of global communications.

8. Observers must be more careful when accompanied by the regime’s security forces on their missions if they seek positive results in their communications with local residents in areas of revolt.

9. A mechanism by which the international media can monitor and report on the behavior of the Syrian regime, by which they have unfettered access to hotspots and areas of uprising, and by which they can be embedded with the UN Observers during their missions.

10. Observers must make an effort to understand and respect cultural differences and social norms to build effective relationships that can lead to productive work with Syrian citizens.

11. The UNSC, as well as Mr. Kofi Annan and his deputies, must take note of the need for the UN Observers’ mission to evolve to include a role for the International Criminal Court to undertake an investigation and verify who is responsible for the gunfire and violence.

Finally, we in the LCC see the need for the UNSC and Mr. Kofi Annan to quickly correct the deficiencies in the Annan Plan and the UN Monitoring Mission, and update it to the maximum extent possible and as quickly as possible, so long as the international situation and regional interest in Syria do not call for additional actions. The regime’s brutal repression, and the international community’s failure to respond adequately, has brought many Syrians to the point where they have lost confidence in the international community and its institutions and principles. No one can blame them.

The Local Coordination Committees in Syria

Damascus 4/6/2012


Over Marjolein Wijninckx

Marjolein is programmaleider Midden-Oosten en woont en werkt in Jordanie. Volg haar op Twitter @paxmarjolein.
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