PRESS RELEASE / May 7, 2023

Decision to admit Syria back into Arab League whitewashes 12 years of atrocities by the Assad regime

Today’s decision by Arab states to allow the Assad regime to rejoin the Arab League is a devastating setback for justice and human rights for Syria and for the whole region.  

The decision effectively normalizes a regime responsible for harrowing atrocities over the past 12 years from indiscriminate bombings of terrified civilians, to chemical attacks and mass arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial killings. 

“Today Arab states have put their own cynical realpolitik and diplomatic agendas above basic humanity. By choosing to restore the Syrian regime’s membership of the Arab League, member states have cruelly betrayed tens of thousands of victims of the regime’s war crimes and granted Assad a green light to continue committing horrific crimes with impunity,” said Laila Kiki, Executive Director of The Syria Campaign.

“This decision signals to survivors of war crimes and crimes against humanity that their suffering no longer matters and justice is not a priority. It also sends a chilling message to citizens across the Arab world putting a final nail in the coffin of the hopes for freedom and democracy of the Arab Spring.” 

“Nothing has changed since Syria was forced out of the Arab League over its brutal crackdown against peaceful protesters in 2011. The only thing that has shifted is the moral compass of Arab member states. Over the years the brutality and scale of violations committed by the regime have risen sharply. Today, bombings of civilians continue in northwest Syria and tens of thousands of people remain arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared in Assad’s dungeons, hundreds of thousands of refugees cannot go back to Syria fearing Assad’s atrocities.”

Since the start of 2023 Arab states have been actively restoring ties with the Syrian regime in a bid to seek its cooperation over issues such as refugee returns and stopping the illegal Captagon trade. The international community has failed to take a strong stance against normalization and use its influence to pressure Arab allies not to restore ties with the regime. 

“Arab states should not be fooled, restoring ties with Assad will not bring regional stability and prosperity nor will it pave the way for mass refugee returns to Syria. For many Syrians returning to Syria under Assad is a fate worse than death and human rights groups have highlighted that those who do go back have been detained and faced horrific abuses including rape and torture.  As long as Assad remains in charge refugees cannot and will not go back,” said Laila Kiki.