Open statement by Russian human rights defenders on the situation in Syria

8 September 2013

Source: Youth Human Rights Movement

Address to human rights defenders and independent public actors of Russia, USA, Europe and other countries on the situation in Syria

We are addressing particularly human rights defenders, independent journalists and intellectual experts – and not politicians, including members of parliaments, who will always defend “national interests” or serve the preferences of their voters. We are not addressing the well-known representatives of international business because, for sure, they always have their understandable commercial interests. We are also not addressing the officials of various international organizations – from the UN to the OSCE, because for a long time now they are either unable to make any decisions, or their bosses do not let them do that, as every bureaucracy has its own corporate interests.

We are addressing those who, from our point of view, are able to think not from the position of their home countries, commercial plans or corporate groups, but from the position of humanity, which does not differentiate between the blood of Sunnis and Shiites, Christians and Jews, Alawites and Buddhists – for whom every human life is valuable, and not only that of civilians, but also of the soldiers who are sent to war by their leaders.

We do not want to repeat the known details of the humanitarian catastrophe happening in Syria (more than 100,000 dead and 2 million refugees) and we are not planning to either justify or expose Assad – the hereditary autocrat, as we are also not planning to either admire or demonize the actions of the not-so-peaceful opposition.

For us it is not even so important what has already happened (as a real tragedy did take place for millions of people), but what is important is what might happen in this region in the next few days, weeks and months. It is important for us whether the military intervention (not to say that is always “evil”) will help those who are still alive or, on the contrary, lead to more casualties.

It is important for us how it can affect the whole system of international law which is already bulging at the seams. And it is also important for us, how it will affect the billions of people who are living today (and, possibly, those who will live in the future) from the point of view of increasing militarization, the spirit of aggression, distrust and total defenselessness of a single human being caught up in a military conflict.

Our suggestions are naive and unrealistic but we will state them anyway.

1. We propose the creation of an “International Humanitarian Group for Syria”, which will try to quickly assess the situation from all sides and make a “verdict” of some kind – not on the issue of who committed which crimes (let this be done by other people at another time), but on the possible scenarios in case a military campaign is started by the USA and their allies, and also in case of a decision not to go through with this operation. Also, which alternatives are possible – not for the holding or seizure of power by one group or another, but for a significant reduction in the number of casualties. In the next few weeks the group must prepare its conclusions for the UN Security Council about the necessity or inadmissibility of any humanitarian intervention, its types, forms and duration (it is possible that we should discuss the option of UN forces separating the opposing sides).

2. It is also possible (but not obligatory) that the “International Humanitarian Group” should quickly organize missions with a sufficient number of participants to be sent to the location to assess the situation objectively and, possibly, to postpone the start of a military operation.

3. This group must take all possible actions including public actions in our countries to put on hold the military scenario until independent experts develop their recommendations and introduce them to the international community.

We are convinced that we did too little to prevent such humanitarian catastrophes in the past 20 years, and we are convinced that international civil society must now do everything possible to prevent a more serious disaster, which would magnify and catalyze the previous conflicts.

In naive hope,

Andrey Yurov, chair of the Commission on Human Rights Abroad of the Russian Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights

Igor Sazhin, human rights defender, Komi Memorial Human Rights Commission

Ella Polyakova, chair of the Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint Petersburg NGO, member of the Russian Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights

Sergei Krivenko, director of the human rights group Citizen. Army. Law, member of the Russian Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights

Vladimir Ryakhovsky, defence lawyer, managing partner of the Slavic Legal Center law firm, member of the Russian Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights

Address for any feedback and reactions is

For the original Russian, see: 
Обращение к правозащитникам и независимым общественным деятелям России, США, Европы и других стран по поводу ситуации в Сирии