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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

SYRIA: Government "satisfied" with UN human rights report

DAMASCUS, 7 August 2005 (IRIN) - The Syrian government has declared itself “satisfied” with points highlighted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee last week, accentuating the positive in the committee's conclusions about progress on civil and political rights.

The committee, which monitors 154 countries signed up to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, received Syria's periodic report in early July. After discussion and debate throughout the month, it published its conclusions and recommendations last week.

“While the previous 2001 report consists of only two positive points, this year’s report contains eight positive points, including Syria’s joining of human rights instruments such as women’s and children’s rights, and the elimination of torture,” Faysal Hamwoui, Director of the government's International Organisations and Conferences Department, told IRIN in Damascus.

Hamwoui was a member of the Syrian delegation that submitted the country report to the Human Rights Committee and answered questions raised by committee experts.

In its final conclusions, in addition to welcoming Syria’s accession to a series of international human rights treaties, the committee expressed particular concerns over the death penalty, Syria’s state of emergency, extrajudicial executions, disappearances and arbitrary detention, and torture.

In addition, it noted that the recommendations made to Syria in 2001 had not been fully taken into consideration and that most areas of concern highlighted then still an issue today.

Responding to concern about the death penalty, the Syrian official pointed out that only people who commit grave crimes that lead to the killing of innocent people were sentenced to death.

“Syria is threatened by Israel - for example, when Israel attacked the Ein al-Saheb area in 2003,” Hamwoui said in response to concern that Syria’s state of emergency, declared some 40 years ago, was still in place.

In the past, Syrian officials have said the government collaborates fully with international human rights organisations and is “keen to implement all its international obligations with regard to all international human rights bodies”.

Human Rights Committee experts also expressed concern at Syria’s treatment of the substantial Kurdish minority population in the country.

Syria should take urgent steps "to protect and promote the rights of non-citizen Kurds" and ensure non-discrimination against all Kurds in the country, the Human Rights Committee said. It urged Damascus to allow Kurdish children born in Syria to acquire Syrian nationality.

Hamwoui said all citizens were equal in Syria. “The Kurds who have no citizenship will be naturalised,” he added.

About 1.5 million Kurds are reported to be living in Syria, in a total population of about 18.5 million, including some 160,000 Kurds denied Syrian citizenship, which makes it hard for them to find work in an economy heavily dominated by the state.

The Kurds, who live mainly in the north of the country, claim the authorities neglect the areas in which they live and intimidate or harass Kurdish people.

The Human Rights Committee said it "remains concerned at discrimination against Kurds and that the practical enjoyment by the Kurdish population of their [civil and political] Covenant rights is not fully guaranteed."

In a separate but related development, the authorities in Damascus were last week reported to have released 60 Kurds from a group of about 2,000 arrested after violent clashes with security forces in March 2004.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights, cited by Gulf News, said the Kurds were the last detainees to be released in connection with the clashes in Hasaka and Aleppo, in which at least 25 people were killed and over 100 were injured.

The Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party said 33 Kurdish detainees remained in custody, the report added.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights




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