By Sarah Tayara / GICJ

Wednesday 15th March marks the 12th anniversary of what begun as the Syrian revolution.  12 years since Syrians peacefully took to the streets to call for justice and an end to decades of human rights violations. 12 years since chants for freedom were swiftly met with violence and brutal repression by the Syrian government. Today, 12 years on from 15th March 2011, the human rights situation in Syria is devastating.  

The last 12 years can only be described as 12 years of horror. At least 600,000 people have been killed, with the real number likely much higher. More than 12 million people have been displaced from their homes. Over 90% of the population lives below the poverty line. Since 2011, the Syrian government, amongst other armed parties in the conflict, have violated practically every principle of international humanitarian law. Reports of the UN mandated Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic have consistently attributed the majority of war crimes and crimes against humanity to the Syrian government. 

The last 12 years have forced Syrians to endure a myriad of chemical weapons attacks, sieges, massacres, arbitrary detentions, and crimes against humanity. A collapsing economy and the outbreak of COVID-19 and cholera have exacerbated the humanitarian catastrophe. Moreover, the recent series of earthquakes further devastated north-western Syria, an area which has been shaking for the last 12 years. 

Yet, 12 years on and the people of Syria are yet to see true solidarity and commitment beyond mere words of condolences. They have been betrayed not only by their government and the land beneath their feet, but also by the international community which has stood by as they suffer. In February 2023, in response to the earthquakes, the UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief admitted that the UN’s response to the earthquakes failed the people in northwest Syria. Yet, this has been the reality for over a decade in which the world has become inured to Syrian suffering. 

On the 12th anniversary of the Syrian uprising, Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) mourns the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been lost and the millions which have been destroyed in the Syrian conflict. We lament the hardship that has been inflicted on the people of Syria who have been caught in the crossfire of political games and tactics. GICJ urges all parties in the conflict to immediately cease all acts of violence against civilians. We call for an immediate end to inhumane treatment and torture in detention centres, including sexual and gender-based violence, as well as an immediate release of all arbitrarily detained civilians. Moreover, we implore the international community to truly commit, beyond mere words, to putting an end to the injustice that has been ongoing for over a decade via the implementation of mechanisms of accountability and the opening of further borders for aid delivery. It is vital that the international community does not stop for the Assad regime’s approval to provide lifesaving aid to the people of Syria who need us now more than ever. Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option. We are twelve years too late in putting the interests of the Syrian people above the agendas of the parties in the conflict.  

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