The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) said Thursday that the appointment of the Syrian regime, which is involved in perpetrating crimes against humanity, to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Executive Board represents the greatest insult to the organization and all its staff and members, adding that the Syrian regime has carried out 544 attacks on medical facilities, killed 652 medical personnel, and arrested/ disappeared 3,329 others since 2011 up to the present date.
The 10-page report includes a brief background summary on the World Health Organization’s structure, noting that the WHO is specifically the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations, and the body responsible for providing leadership on global health matters. The number of WHO member states is 194, with the organization’s work supervised by: the World Health Assembly, the Executive Board, and the Secretariat. The report talks about the work of the World Health Assembly and refers to the main committees that emerges from it, including the General Committee, which is composed of 25 members.
The report then focuses on the Executive Board which is composed of 34 members, each of whom is elected for a three-year term, and who are chosen in a way that achieves a regional balance. The report points out that the General Committee, by secret ballot, draws up a list of members and submits this to the World Health Assembly, which elects the candidates to fill the seats in the Board to be filled. The report notes that this was the mechanism through which the Syrian regime was elected as a member of the WHO Executive Board.
As the report reveals, during the meeting of the General Committee in the session held on May 26, 2021, a list of 12 Member States was nominated to fill the available seats on the Executive Board at its 149th session; on Friday, May 28, 2021, during the meeting of the World Health Assembly, none of the representatives of the Member States objected to the list of candidate countries, leading to its adoption without a ballot. The SNHR considers the fact that none of the representatives of Member States, especially those representing liberal democratic countries, objected to the presence of the Syrian regime on the list of candidates to be reprehensible in the extreme.
The report adds that the well-documented history of the Syrian regime’s crimes over the past ten years includes the deliberate bombardment of medical facilities, the killing of hundreds of medical personnel, and the forced disappearance of thousands of others; this catalogue of crimes makes the Syrian regime the worst regime on the face of the planet in maintaining the health of the citizens for whose care it is responsible. In this context, the report reveals that the Syrian regime has carried out at least 544 attacks on medical facilities in Syria between March 2011 and June 2021, killed at least 652 medical personnel during the same period, including 84 due to torture, with five of these victims being identified by their families from among the photos taken of victims’ bodies in a regime detention center that were smuggled out by the former regime photographer codenamed Caesar.
The report adds that at least 3,329 medical personnel remain arrested/ detained or forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime, as of June 2021, and that at least nine of the medical personnel who have been forcibly disappeared in the Syrian regime detention centers have been registered as dead at the civil registry departments in the various Syrian governorates, since the beginning of 2018 up until June 2021.
The report further reveals that the Syrian regime is also involved in theft and control of humanitarian aid, as well as referring to the regime’s recklessness in failing to take any real and serious measures in line with the instructions of the World Health Organization to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report adds that the Syrian regime continues to detain 3,329 medical personnel despite a year-and-a-half having passed since the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged in Syria, with new strains emerging since then, underlining Syrian society’s need for these medics’ efforts, with the regime also arresting more citizens, meaning additional overcrowding in the already congested detention centers, another blatant display of negligence in obligating citizens to follow the most basic standards of health care, with the regime even forcing citizens to attend large gatherings through coercion and threats, as happened recently during the latest re-‘election’ of Bashar al Assad.
The report strongly condemns the presence of the Syrian regime on the World Health Organization’s Executive Board, and condemns the failure of Member States friendly to the Syrian people to object to the regime’s candidacy for this position. The report notes that the information it includes is supposed to be well known to the World Health Organization and all its members, stressing that the presence of a regime such as Syria’s on the WHO Executive Board is an insult to the organization and its efforts and to all its employees, as well as a grotesque insult to the medical personnel killed or forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime. The report further notes that the Syrian regime’s candidacy and its appointment without objection from any of the countries that attended the meeting and consequently having its membership of the Executive Board accepted constituted a great shock to the Syrian Network for Human Rights team and to a large number of human rights activists around the world.
The report recommends that the World Health Organization should hold an emergency meeting of the World Health Assembly and take a decision to expel the Syrian regime due to its involvement in crimes against humanity and war crimes against the health sector in Syria, as well as providing a set of additional recommendations.