Demand Justice for Atrocities in Syria | Physicians for Human Rights

Demand Justice for Atrocities in Syria

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After ten years of conflict, Syrians urgently need renewed support from the international community to see justice done.

Take action: Send your letter to Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to join PHR as we urge the United States to prioritize justice and accountability for the atrocities in Syria.

Your Message
Here's how the United States can help Syrians survivors.
Dear Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield,

This week marks 10 years of war in Syria. Ten years of a brutal crackdown by Bashar al Assad’s regime and its allies against the Syrian people. Ten years of unimaginable war crimes and human rights abuses, arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, torture, enforced disappearances, widespread and systematic attacks on health care, use of chemical weapons, and repeated denial of desperate pleas for humanitarian assistance.

Ten years later, despite the horrors of the conflict, there has been no justice and accountability. What’s worse, these violations continue with impunity. Tens of thousands of innocent Syrians – including doctors, nurses, and other health care workers – are still being detained arbitrarily and unlawfully.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has been documenting these crimes since the beginning of the conflict. In 2019, our investigation shed light on the systematic arrest, detention, and torture of health care workers by the Syrian government. Hundreds were persecuted for fulfilling their ethical obligation to provide medical care to those in need, yet hospitals and clinics along with their staffs were purposefully put in the crosshairs. PHR has rigorously documented these illegal attacks on health care in Syria. Today, PHR has verified 598 attacks since the start of the conflict, 90 percent of them are attributed to the Syrian government and its allies. The state of the health care system in Syria was already dire prior to the global pandemic, and now civilians and health care workers face an even more impossible task to provide care as COVID-19 grips the country.

I appreciated your comments at the United Nations General Assembly demanding that the Assad government make public the status of detainees and return the remains of the deceased to their loved ones. Victims of the disappeared have a fundamental right to know the fate of their loved ones. I also support your position that vital humanitarian aid be allowed across borders to reach those most in need.

You also asked: “How can the international community better support former detainees and other survivors of the regime’s atrocities? And what can we do to help that we aren’t doing now?”

I have an answer for you from a former detainee and survivor, Dr. Houssam al-Nahhas, a researcher at PHR who was arrested by the Syrian government simply for doing his job. Dr. al-Nahhas wrote to me with the following recommendations based on his research and personal experience, and I couldn’t agree more:

The United States should use the full scope of its influence at the United Nations – and help coordinate diplomatic engagements with Syria and its allies – to secure release of all those arbitrarily detained, including doctors and other health care workers. This includes calling for the release of arbitrarily arrested detainees as part of ongoing and future peace negotiations. Any individuals who remain in detention must have access to quality health care, including treatment and vaccines for COVID-19.

Facilitate consensus within the international community on compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law in the conflict in Syria, including pathways to release of detainees and ensure adequate justice, accountability, rehabilitation, and remedies for individuals arbitrarily detained or subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

• Demand, and if necessary, create a path forward for justice and accountability for the human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Assad government. This includes the investigation and prosecution of possible perpetrators of crimes in Syria who are present in the United States.

• Provide any additional resources and support that may be needed to advance the work of the UN International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism, the Commission of Inquiry, and the Humanitarian Deconfliction Mechanism for Humanitarian Organizations Operating in Syria.

• Immediately revoke sanctions against officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and rescind the executive order that provides authority for such sanctions; It is important to send a message that the United States still stands by its earlier support at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) of a referral of the situation of Syria to the ICC, which clearly requires reversal of such a hostile action by the previous administration.

• Immediately negotiate the restoration of humanitarian access within Syria. Thousands are dying as the Assad regime continues to use aid as a political weapon. And millions may not have access to COVID-19 vaccine if you do not act fast.

Much more must be done to protect and uphold human rights in Syria, but I urge you to use your influence to immediately take action on these priority issues.

Thank you,


[First Name] [Last Name]