Statement by representative of the Russian Federation Mr.Vadim Kirpichenko at an Arria meeting of UNSC members “Syrian Women's Voices on Detainees and the Disappeared in Syria”
We took note of all statements that have been made at this informal Arria meeting of Security Council member states. Without any doubt, the Syrian people – men, women, and children – have lived through much suffering since 2011 incurred by a conflict that had been largely provoked by external forces. We also listened to stories of Syrian civil society representatives who are present here today, as well as remarks by the organizers of this meeting.
Unfortunately, all of them have but one characteristic feature – they all proceed from the presumption of guilt of the Syrian government. We clearly see the efforts of our Western colleagues to stir up this topic and attract exaggerated attention to it. In the meantime, they seek to de-humanize official Damascus, oppose its efforts to ensure a civil reconciliation, reach stability and safety throughout the Syrian territory.
We must say that the practice of holding such meetings is nothing else but an attempt of some actors to employ the authority of the United Nations to exert political pressure on the countries they find unwanted.
The topic of detainees and disappeared persons in Syria was off the radar of our Western colleagues for some time. So it is no coincidence that this Arria meeting is being held today. Apparently, positive momentum at the track of political process, as well as growing international understanding of the negative effect of illegal sanctions on ordinary Syrians made the organizers of this event take urgent steps to divert the international attention from the positive trends. It is hardly a coincidence that the meeting is held at the moment when the Editorial Board of Syria’s Constitutional Committee is bringing to a close another round of its work.
The recent steps taken by Damascus demonstrate the constructive approach of the Syrian Government. On 30 April, President Assad issued an amnesty to all Syrian citizens who had been convicted of terrorist activity and crimes committed before 30 April 2022 excluding offenses that caused people’s deaths. All Syrians, both at home and abroad, are subjected to the effect of this presidential amnesty. It means that Syrians, including refugees and migrants, who had worries about their status, can go to any Syrian embassy and receive exhaustive information whether they fall under this decree or not. Warrants for prosecution, house search, or arrest cease to be valid without any red tape-related delays. Once the law was enforced, the Syrian Ministry of Justice and relevant judiciary bodies embarked on its prompt implementation.
Let me also remind that starting from 2011, President Assad has signed about twenty amnesties that improved the situation of hundreds thousands Syrians and their family members. Legal action against them was stopped, and punitive measures revoked, so that people were able to get back to normal life. More than 28,000 people, who were charged for terrorist activity, had their charges dropped.
This decision by the Syrian President won approval of non-Western Security Council members, as well as SESG Pedersen. We echo the opinion of our colleagues and believe that this step by the Syrian leadership in addition to the January amnesty for those who evaded conscription and a decree on criminalization of torture by all means creates favorable conditions for return of Syrian refugees. At the same time, it is very regretful that our Western colleagues in the Security Council are so imbued in this anti-Syrian sentiment that they simply ignore those important developments.
In this regard, we would like to ask the organizers of this meeting how many times since 2011 they have communicated to Syrian officials and authorities in order to promote or facilitate detainee liberation or exchange. This is a rhetorical question, to which everybody knows the answer – Western capitals never sought to establish such dialogue. The only practical steps taken over past 10 years were support for and whitewashing of terrorists, military support for anti-governmental forces, bombings, pumping-up Syria with weapons, imposing sanctions in the interests of a regime change. I wonder when was the last time the Syrian opposition voluntarily and unilaterally did mass liberation of detainees. How many times have the US, Great Britain, France, or other Western states have called the opposition to do so? That was another rhetorical question, the answer to which is widely known. We noted that Syria's Oppositional Negotiations Committee lists among the organizers of this meeting. It is a pity that instead of getting prepared for a meeting of Astana Format’s Working Group on Detainees, the Syrian opposition engages in “black PR”, choosing to join this Arria meeting.
One cannot fail to recognize an obvious fact – Damascus proves ready to take concrete steps at the detainee/disappeared persons track. Unfortunately, our Western colleagues cannot understand a very simple logic – without a direct, open, and constructive dialogue with the Syrian government, further progress at this track is impossible. We call to give an unbiased assessment to everything that Syrian authorities have done, welcome and support their efforts. We are convinced that there is no alternative to a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led political settlement that should proceed under the UN mediation, without external interference and artificial deadlines, and within the framework of UNSC resolution 2254.