The response to the Corona pandemic must not be politicized or used to overlook crimes committed in Syria.

On World Health Day
After nine years of politicizing and weaponizing health and health services in Syria, the response to the Corona pandemic must not be politicized or used to overlook crimes committed in Syria.

Since 2011 more than 180 health workers were killed under torture in the detention centers of the Syrian government in addition to more than five hundred attacks on health facilities in Syria, more than 90% of them by the forces of the Syrian government, its allies and militias. These acts are war crimes committed systematically in violation of all the international laws and regulations and the UNSC resolutions, while resolution No 2286 (2016) failed to put an end to these attacks or provide any kind of protection to health workers.

In addition, whole communities were deprived from the right of health in a systematic way within the sieges imposed by the Syrian government in several areas for many years in which the Syrian government used the right to access health services as a mean of pressure on both communities and individuals; as well as prohibiting medical equipment from reaching besieged cities and towns including cesarean operation kits, infants medicines, and even delaying vaccines to many regions. This continues today with other stakeholders using access to basic needs and services as political bargain chops. UN security council de-authorized Alyarobieh crossing point due to veto threats by Russia, which deprived 2 millions in north east of Syria from getting cross border medical aid, and left them under the mercy of the Syrian government, which is the only way to access supplies, and whom obstructed medical aid for years. Furthermore, weaponization of water, electricity and other basic needs, in addition to the failure of the Turkish authorities of providing adequate water supplies due to several interruption of running Allouk water station which provides water to almost 460 thousands in north east of Syria, can’t be allowed under the growing needs of water to tackle the corona pandemic.

 The Syrian government has a long record of depriving detainees, particularly opinion and political detainees, from the rights of having the minimum of health conditions in the detention centers. Many reports issued by law bodies mentioned practicing torture acts in many military health centers, furthermore detainees and their relatives were deprived from accessing their medical records, while many death cases in detention centers were attributed to “health problems” without sharing any medical records with the families of the victims. These procedures culminated in preventing UN bodies and the ICRC teams from visiting detention centers to monitor the health conditions of the detainees.

Today, on the 70th Annual World Health Day, which also coincides with the anniversary of the establishment of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is, this year dedicated to thank the nurses and midwives who, today, stand bravely in the face of the Corona pandemic. Thanking them in Syria should be embodied in protecting them from any politicization in responding to this pandemic, and from any political intervention by overlooking the crimes committed against them, or the rights of over 900 of their colleagues who had lost their lives at duty.

The organizations signing this statement have real fears of the humanitarian health response to Corona pandemic being exploited politically in a way that ignores the crimes committed by the Syrian government, its allies and all the other parties of the conflict for many years, particularly the crimes related to health issues. The absence of statistical transparency of the Syrian government on Coronavirus cases is very clear. The irresponsible conduct of the Syrian government in facing the pandemic, in addition to the long history of the Syrian security services in the medical humanitarian response increase fears of politicization of the response, either through discriminating between Syrians according to regions’ control, or exploiting the pandemic to distort the long records of crimes and violations against the right of health, while the challenges to respond to the corona virus pandemic are those practices by the Syrian government and other stakeholders, and nothing else . Therefore, we demand that:

  1. WHO lead the response against Corona regardless of the party in control in the Syrian regions, to guarantee the provision of all health requirements in terms of diagnosing, responding and spreading awareness which are basic needs in health response, in a way that guarantees the reach of all health services in all the geographic regions in Syria and to all the Syrians in Syria and in neighboring countries.

  2. The member states in the Human Rights Council, the judicial bodies, and the investigation committees and bodies working in Syria, not to turn a blind eye to any violations committed in the health sector in Syria during the last nine years and to ensure that providing a better response against Corona pandemic does not mean turning away from any crimes, accountability or justice procedures towards the criminals.

  3. Immediate release of all detainees, especially political and opinion detainees, and those who were detained on the background of engagement in humanitarian response in Syria. Full access for ICRC teams to detention facilities should be guaranteed.

  4. The UN leadership of the humanitarian response in Syria to work to improve response to the aggravated health needs, and to increase the response to other humanitarian sectors, in a way that guarantees the maximum engagement of Syrian civil society, and the protection of humanitarian workers and infrastructure.

Accordingly, We sign:

  1. Access Center for Human Rights – ACHR

  2. Al-Kawakibi Center for Transitional Justice and Human Rights

  3. ASML/Syria

  4. ASO Center for Consultancy and Strategic Studies

  5. Association of German Syrian Organizations (VDSH e.V.)

  6. Baytna Syria

  7. Bercav Organization

  8. Big Heart Foundation

  9. Caesar Families Association

  10. Center for Civil Society and Democracy

  11. Collective of Missing Families in Algeria (CFDA)- Collectif de Familles Disparues en Algérie

  12. Dawlaty

  13. Detainees’ Voice Team

  14. Fédération euro-méditerranéenne contre les disparitions forcées

  15. Fraternity Foundation for Human rights FFHR-Biratî

  16. Hand in Hand for Aid & Development – HIHFAD

  17. Hurras Network

  18. Impunity Watch

  19. Inmaa Alfourt Organization

  20. International Service for Human Rights

  21. Jana Watan

  22. Justice for Life

  23. Local Development and Small-Projects Support (LDSPS)

  24. Local Development Organization

  25. SEMA

  26. Shafak

  27. Shaml Syrian CSOs Coalition

  28. Start Point

  29. Still There

  30. Syria Legal Network in the Netherlands

  31. Syria Relief

  32. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)

  33. Syrian Coalition for Development and Relief

  34. Syrian Lawyers Aggregation

  35. SYRIAN LEAGUE FOR CITIZENSHIP

  36. Syrian Network for Human Rights

  37. Syrians for Truth and Justice-STJ

  38. TEVN

  39. The Asfari Foundation

  40. The Day After

  41. The Syria Campaign

  42. UOSSM

  43. Urnammu For Justice & Human Rights

  44. Women Now for Development