February 25, 2019

Italy: No shaking hands with a mass murderer

Last week, we sent the letter below to members of the Italian Foreign Ministry regarding their recent announcement about re-opening the Italian embassy in Damascus. Read more and take action here

Dear Mr. Milanesi,

I write on behalf of The Syria Campaign and our 700,000 supporters to express serious concerns about your recent announcement that Italy is considering reopening its embassy in Damascus. In recent weeks, thousands of people around the world have signed a letter urging you to keep the embassy shut and to not re-establish diplomatic relations with the Assad regime. The text of the letter reads:

I am writing to demand that you publicly reverse your position on reopening the Italian embassy in Damascus. It is shameful that Italy would normalize its relations with the Assad regime when it continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. Real peace in Syria is not possible without justice for Syrian civilians and a genuine political process, and until then, diplomatic ties should remain severed.

Seven years since your government closed its embassy in Damascus citing Syria’s brutal treatment of civilians, the situation for those inside the country remains grim and grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law continue unabated. To this day, the Syrian government continues to kill civilians through airstrikes, execution, and torture, and tens of thousands of Syrians are detained or forcibly disappeared. Nearly 3 million people in Idlib live in fear of what the UN described would be the “worst humanitarian catastrophe” of the 21st century if the regime launches an all-out military assault on the province. For Syrians outside the country, the fear of detention and forced conscription are frequently cited among the main reasons for not wanting to return home. We are surprised that Italy would consider restoring diplomatic ties under these conditions and deeply concerned that doing so will only serve to give recognition for Assad and further enable his crimes.

We have long supported survivors of Assad’s brutality in their struggle for justice and Syrian families in their quest to find answers and gain access to their detained and forcibly disappeared loved ones. In the absence of an international tribunal or an International Criminal Court jurisdiction over Syria, human rights groups are relying on the principle of universal jurisdiction to seek justice in EU courts. This has recently resulted in arrest warrants issued by Germany and France against senior regime figures on charges of torture, enforced disappearances, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Rather than focus on re-establishing diplomatic ties, we encourage Italy to prioritize civilian protection and take serious steps to end impunity and hold all parties to account.

We believe the public should be better informed about Italy’s position and plans in regard to reopening the embassy in Syria and would be grateful to meet with members of your staff to discuss this matter. We look forward to your response.


The Syria Campaign