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Minister of Foreign Affairs called on to act on human rights crisis in Syria

    May 25, 2011

    The Honourable John Baird
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    125 Sussex Drive
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0G2

    May 25, 2011

    Dear Minister Baird,

    Today, around the world, Amnesty International will be delivering to Syrian Embassies copies of a recent petition, signed by more than 100,000 people, calling on the Syrian government to bring the current human rights crisis in the country to an end.  Most immediately and urgently the petition calls on the Syrian government to rein in the country’s security forces and end unlawful killings and other gross human rights violations including arbitrary arrest and torture.

    At the same time, we are turning to the international community and urging all governments to intensify pressure on Syrian authorities to end the abuses.  To that end, Amnesty International has called on the UN Security Council to:

    • refer the situation  in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; and
    • impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Syria and an assets freeze on President Bashar al-Assad and others involved in ordering or perpetrating serious human rights abuses.

    We urge the Canadian government to use all diplomatic channels to press members of the Security Council to take these important steps, including by taking advantage of the upcoming G8 Summit, at which the situation in Syria will be on the agenda.   

    We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday of a number of measures Canada is now taking with respect to the situation in Syria, including a targeted travel ban and asset freeze, and a ban on exports of materials subject to controls under the Export and Import Permits Act.  Now Canada’s focus should be to push for similar, comprehensive measures to be adopted by the Security Council.

    We also call on your government to exert increased pressure on Syrian authorities to adopt the following measures, without delay, all crucial to ending this spiralling human rights crisis.  

    • Rein in the security forces and end unlawful killings and other gross abuses including  arbitrary arrests and torture.
    • Guarantee and uphold the right to peaceful protest, affording all appropriate protection  to peaceful protesters from excessive force by security forces and the Syrian army, as  well as  violence by others. 
    • Release immediately and unconditionally all prisoners of conscience, and release all  other detainees, including those held in connection with the protests, unless they are  tried on recognizable criminal charges and in full conformity with international fair trial  standards and  without recourse to the death penalty. 
    • Set up immediately a full, thorough and transparent independent investigation into the  gross and widespread human rights violations that have been committed in recent  weeks, including alleged extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, arbitrary  arrests and enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment.  The results of  such an investigation should be made public.  Perpetrators of human rights violations  should face justice in accordance with international law and there should be full  reparation for victims.  
    • Protect the rights to freedom of association and ensure that all human rights  organizations,  human rights defenders, media workers and independent observers are  able to carry out their work without political interference or hindrance;  
    • Request visits by and facilitate prompt access by relevant international human rights  mechanisms, such as the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary  executions and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or  degrading treatment or punishment.

    Minister, we know that there are many pressing international issues competing for your attention as you take up your new position as Minister of Foreign Affairs.  The deeply troubling human rights crisis in Syria is certainly one such situation where urgent and sustained action is desperately needed.

    Alex Neve    Secretary General   Amnesty International Canada (English branch)

    Beatrice Vaugrante, Directrice Générale, Amnistie internationale Canada francophone

    John Tackaberry,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    613-744-7667, ext 236