Center for Civil Liberties took part in the conference “Justice and Accountability – New Ways of Thinking”, dedicated to war crimes in Ukraine and Syria

On October 16 and 17, the conference “Justice and Accountability – New Ways of Thinking” was held in Kyiv, which was organized by the Syrian-Ukrainian Network (SUN) and its member organizations: Razom for Ukraine, the Syrian Task Force on Emergency Situations (SETF) and the Center for Civil Liberties.

Armed conflicts have been proliferating, at new peaks in terms of spread and violence since WWII, deployed purposefully against civilians and undermining international law. Human rights violations are on the rise and the pursuit of the responsibility to protect (R2P) is but a lost cause.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine demonstrates that impunity anywhere only greenlights and emboldens the worst destructive forces elsewhere. Already by the beginning of 2022, for over a decade Syria had been showcasing the global political and ethical decadence that allowed under international eyes some of the worst, most systemic targeting of civilians: mass political detention, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings; chemical weapons; sieges and starvation; airstrikes, shelling and barrel bombs on hospitals, schools, markets and even first responders (the White Helmets) – and yet even with double taps; the list is as wide as it is endless. This has led to catastrophic conditions on the ground and with inadequate humanitarian support from the international community, including from the UN to the emergence of humanitarian actors in Syria, who have since become standard bearers in their sector.

Reverberations from this lack of accountability have gone well beyond Syria, to be seen most egregiously in Ukraine again with the full-scale invasion: in fact, the playbook Russia had been abetting for the Syrian regime and even committed itself in Syria it now repeats on a large scale in Ukraine. The same set of war crimes, as deliberate and brutal, from torturing and executing civilians, to targeting hospitals and other civilian infrastructure and taking civilians hostage by sieging entire towns. In parallel, the very same aggressors have been waging successful full-blown disinformation operations with the aim of manipulating the public away from the truth as a means to evade political and other accountability. All these while Russia’s assaults on Syria and the Assad regime’s crimes there have been emboldened by a lack of accountability for Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine and crimes against Ukrainians.

The panelіs, among others, included Stephen Rapp, Fellow US Holocaust Memorial Museum & former US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes & Genocide Prevention, Oleksandra Matviichuk, Director of the Center for Civil Liberties, Fadel Abdul Ghany, Executive Director of SNHR, Olga Lautman, Coordinator & Senior Fellow at the Syria-Ukraine Network Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), and Ivan M. Nielsen, former Danish Special Representative for the Syria Crisis.

By bringing together experts and advocates from different organizations, SUN seeks to raise awareness about the importance of accountability in preventing future atrocities and maintaining global peace. The network aims to mobilize international support and action to ensure that perpetrators of war crimes and human rights violations in Syria and Ukraine are held accountable for their actions.

Background Note:

The Syria-Ukraine Network (SUN) – is a coalition of organizations and individuals in Syria, Ukraine and abroad aiming to stop and expose war crimes in Syria and Ukraine.

Photo credit: Anna Protsai

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