The Socialist Group at the Parliamentary Assembly at the Council of Europe:

Asking explanation about the visit of PACE President Agramunt in Syria and firm dissociation

Recent media articles in the Russian and in European press reported on the recent visit to Syria and meeting with President Assad by a delegation composed by lawmakers of Russia’s State Duma and including the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Chair of the ALDE Group, the Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee and a number of other European Members of Parliament, in order to establish a “constitutional commission” in the Syrian parliament. None of the PACE bodies was informed about this visit which was a total surprise for us and left the Socialist Group extremely concerned and worried.

Our Chair, Michele Nicoletti has immediately asked for an urgent and public clarification about the role of PACE in this story and about the direct or indirect impact of this initiative on our Assembly, but, unfortunately, this clarification has not been made.

Now, an increasing number of members of the Assembly, political groups and national delegations are expressing their concern and criticism.

Our political Group disassociates itself from this visit to Syria. Even if the visit has been “personal” and “private”, in no case the name of the Parliamentary Assembly can be involved in initiatives which can be objectively read as a support of Assad’s regime and its action against the Syrian population. Furthermore, the visit is reported to be organized by Russian parliamentarians. This point raises some questions as the Russian Federation decided not to present any parliamentarian delegation to PACE in January 2017 and is not participating in the work of PACE.

In this regard we recall PACE Resolution 1878 (2012) and Recommendation 2026 (2013) on the situation in Syria, as well as recent Resolution 2138 (2016) and Recommendation 2096 (2016) on the situation in Aleppo, which firmly condemned the widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity, committed by Syrian military and security forces, such as the use of force against civilians, arbitrary executions, the killing and persecution of protesters, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence, including of and against children. The Assembly equally condemned the indiscriminate attacks on civilians and other crimes in Aleppo, including the tragic situation of children, who have not received UN humanitarian aid, as many schools and hospitals have been hit by aerial bombardments and left many children to die.

After the tragic incidents arose in Northern Syria, at the beginning of April, in which suspected chemical airstrikes killed dozens of people, including many children, it is urgent that the PACE reiterates its condemnation of war crimes and killing of civilians and dissociates from any initiative which can weaken its capacity and credibility of acting as strong advocate for human rights.