Forced displacement in Syria & gender sensitive accountability
Side-Event “Forced displacement in Syria and the need for gender sensitive accountability”
Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 10 July 2018
A warm thank you to the Syrian women’s political movement for this initiative and thank you to all the speakers we have just heard, for your edifying interventions. You are for us all a source of admiration and inspiration. I want to pay tribute to all of you for your long-lasting commitment, and I want to reiterate France’s full support to your efforts. It’s a great honor for Marie Philippe in my team and for me to be with you this afternoon.
The fight against forced displacements is a top priority for all of us, and certainly for France. Because it is really at the heart of everything and it is at the very heart of the Syrian tragedy. What we have just heard shows again, if need be, how much the Syrian conflict is far from a settlement, and how badly we need to fully mobilize for justice and accountability, and for an inclusive political solution - and the truth is that the two go together.
Against this backdrop, let me share three brief messages with you.
1. First of all, since the very beginning of the civil war, forced displacements by the Syrian regime have been an integral part of the military strategies in Syria, causing not only the horrible humanitarian situation that we all know but also a reshaping of the repartition of Syria’s people on the ground.
Forced displacements have been one of the main features of this conflict from the beginning until now. The figures that we all know and just heard speak for themselves, they are just unthinkable.
Women and girls, it is important to underscore, are by far the most vulnerable to forced displacements, first because they are targeted by a systematic use of sexual and gender-based violence as tactics of war but also as part of a systematic attack against civilians that may constitute war crimes.
Forced displacements are a part of a long standing strategy of demographic engineering implemented by the regime, and aimed a) at changing the population of areas previously held by the opposition - that’s very clear - and b) aimed at providing real estate opportunities to its allies and affiliates. This global strategy rests on acts that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. On the legal side, law No 10 is the last addition to that strategy.
2. Second point, in this dramatic context, more than ever we need to mobilize:
i) First, as an immediate response, to tackle the humanitarian catastrophe and protect local communities under threat, refugees and displaced persons. First, humanitarian access has to be implemented in the whole of Syria and especially in South West Syria. Russia bears a special responsibility in what is happening right now and has to stand up. Cross-border humanitarian access has to be restored as a matter of emergency. Second, the safe and voluntary return of refugees must remain an absolute priority and the international community must keep its commitment to support host communities in neighbouring countries, and to keep a special focus on the situation of isolated women.
ii) Second, we need to counter the implementation of the demographic engineering strategy. Demographic engineering is a nuclear time bomb. It will eventually detonate if we don’t address it. This requires three types of action:
- First of all, on the political side, a genuine and legitimate political solution in line with resolution 2254 will have to include the return of stolen properties and the removal of the obstacles preventing the return of refugees and displaced people, all this as part of the implementation of a safe and neutral environment. I think it is really a key objective here : “creating the conditions for a safe and neutral environment”. And as a first step, law No 10 and the other laws that participate in the regime’s demographic engineering have to be repelled, as demanded in the last Human Rights Council resolution.
A representative and balanced constitutional committee has to address the guarantees provided for the respect of fundamental rights such as freedom of movement, safety, and propriety, which are thoroughly violated by the regime’s strategy of demographic engineering. We won’t be able to provide international legitimacy to a political solution that would not tackle this situation. So this is something to keep in mind for the future negotiations.
- On the judiciary side, fighting against impunity and achieving justice is key, in itself but also as a basis for a political solution, notably when people are deprived of such fundamental rights as identity and propriety, but also when sexual violence is used as a part of a displacement scheme. The Syrian legal system makes women even more vulnerable: Syria nationality law of 1969 prevents many isolated mothers from asserting their rights, including property rights. France fully supports the indispensable work of the IIIM, building files and gathering evidence of all the crimes committed in Syria. Its mandate, cooperation with national courts and support must be increased. And I think there is now a real mobilization behind it. This work must be done in close link with the Commission of Inquiry, especially on demographic engineering because of Mr. Pinheiro’s past achievements.
On accountability, we also welcome the decision adopted at the last special conference of the States Parties CWC, which strengthens the ability of the OPCW and creates an attribution mechanism so that the use of chemical weapons, in particular in Syria, does not stay unpunished. I think it is very much part of what we want to do today and we need to stay committed on that front too.
- Finally, on the stabilization side, we urge the international community to be most careful not to become unwittingly accomplice of a criminal strategy when conducting non-humanitarian actions in regime held Syria. We need to assert in the most rigorous way that rehabilitation efforts do not entrench the result of crimes against humanity. Beyond stabilization, dismantling the whole demographic engineering strategy will be necessary to engage into post political agreement reconstruction. On this too, we need to remain firm and we see already the signals and temptations from those who might be willing to compromise. But we must not compromise on this front.
3. In conclusion, this is why we so badly need an inclusive political solution. This is our fight at the Security Council right now. We fully stand behind the UN’s efforts in Geneva, to bring together the main stakeholders on the Syrian crisis and to enable the creation of a representative constitutional committee, with full, effective and equal participation of women and civil society. That is why France together with many of our partners here is working to create more links and coordination between the main actors, in order to finally make a turning point in history for Syria and get a concrete way out.
This is not the last time we discuss the demographic engineering strategy or its implications for Syrian women. We have a collective responsibility here to address this issue. Once again, this is a nuclear time bomb. It will eventually explode. We will not give up, we must not give up and will call on every actor to engage. And in this respect, today’s meeting is a very good illustration on what needs to be done and translated into action. Merci beaucoup