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The Impact of the Conflict on Human Rights in Syria

A child stands among bombed-out buildings in Syria.

February 20, 2020

Speakers:

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Brazil)
Karen Koning Abuzayd (United States)
Hanny Megally (Egypt)
Introductory remarks by Daniel Serwer, Johns Hopkins SAIS

The school welcomed the Commissioners of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to discuss recent conflict dynamics in Syria and their impact on the human rights situation. In his introductory remarks, Johns Hopkins SAIS Professor Daniel Serwer welcomed the Commission and underlined their extraordinary work on a plethora of human rights violations in the Syrian conflict.

The discussion began with a brief introduction by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro on the work of the Commission inquiry. Clearly alarmed and frustrated by the emergency of the situation despite the war entering its 9th year, the Commissioner explained that the dramatic impact on civilian structures, schools and medical facilities and depopulation of villages has been a persisting and enduring feature of the conflict. In this context, he discussed the Commission’s recently published report on child rights violations. By emphasizing the magnitude of the violation on children’s rights, Commissioner Pinheiro described the desperate situation on the ground as one underpinned by destruction of schools for military purposes, sexual violence, imposed dress codes, restricted freedom of women, human trafficking, systematic arrests of young boys to be recruited in the armed forces. Notwithstanding the fact that many UN member states do not respect the convention of rights of children that have ratified, he explained that repeated exposure to violence has led to increasing signs of trauma and psychological behavior disorder, chronic fatigue, and acute stress.

In the discussion that followed with Professor Serwer and the audience, the Commissioners shared their views on a number of issues ranging from whether or not Russia could ever acknowledge the Commission’s data on the violations on the ground, the necessity of enabling international access to detention facilities, the importance of political dialogue for the path to peace given the multiple parties that organize different configurations for Syria, and the difficulty of the Commission’s work to challenge the complex relationships of the partners on the side of Syria that are supporting and reinforcing the human rights violations on the ground.