PARIS – SNHR
The Hague – Thursday, February 23, 2023: Fadel Abdul Ghany, Executive Director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), participated in the event, ‘Countering Disinformation: A Shared Responsibility’ that was organized by the Permanent Representation of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in collaboration with CBWnet, the international network campaigning for a comprehensive reinforcement of norms against chemical and biological weapons.
The opening remarks at the event, held at the German embassy in The Hague, were delivered by the Permanent Representative Ambassador, Thomas Schieb. The speakers at the event were Chelsea Fewkes from the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), Raimonda Miglinaite from the European anti-disinformation organization EUDisnfo, Chloe Hadjimatheou from the BBC, and Fadel Abdul Ghany, Executive Director of the SNHR. The event was moderated by Professor Dr. Thilo Marauhn, from the CBWNet/Justus-Liebig-University Giessen/Asser Institute.
The event focused on discussion of state-sponsored disinformation campaigns which threaten to undermine the effective functioning of international institutions.
In his address, Mr. Abdul Ghany said that one of the most vital methods of countering disinformation campaigns is adopting a precise working methodology and being consistently and always on the side of the truth even on occasions when this is uncomfortable and does not serve one’s interests, stressing that objectivity and independence in this field of work is essential. He added that UN bodies, the OPCW, and objective human rights organizations incorporate all of these points as foundational principles, which is why it is difficult for Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime to question their work methodology. Rather, he explained, such authoritarian states constantly use only vague, suggestive terms such as ‘fabricated evidence’, ‘biased reports’, ‘false sources’ and ‘Western-biased report’, among others, without presenting any credible evidence or countering reports that employ similar methodology to the rigorously factual human rights reports. As Mr. Abdul Ghany noted, this signals these states’ lack of any credible or reliable standards; instead, he explained, they rely upon threatening eyewitnesses and mobilizing pro-Russian dictatorships to vote against these organizations’ reports on the international stage, as well as enlisting the help of suspicious websites and other media funded by those same states.
Moreover, Mr. Abdul Ghany pointed out, the Syrian and Russian regime both have a long history of consistently lying to and deceiving the international community. He further stressed that Russia must be held accountable for the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, having ended the mandate of the IIIM, and threatened eyewitnesses and survivors from the April 2018 Douma attack carried out by the Syrian regime in which Russia was directly involved, as was conclusively proven by the most recent report by the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT). Mr. Abdul Ghany underlined that, as documented on SNHR’s database, no fewer than 387 senior officers from the Syrian regime’s military, security apparatuses, as well as civilian and military workers have earned their place on the U.S. and European sanctions lists.
The SNHR head also focused on the importance of condemning any attempts to restore diplomatic relations with a regime which, as has been unequivocally proven, has repeatedly used weapons of mass destruction against its own people, stressing that Syrians cannot accept the rule of a regime that has used such weapons against them. As such, he said, the international community should uphold its responsibility for bringing about a political transition which also ensures a new leadership for the military and security agencies that were involved in the use of chemical weapons.
He also noted that the UN Security Council has failed to uphold its mandate to preserve international peace and security, as is clearly demonstrated by the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons despite all of the Security Council resolutions against it, adding that the Security Council has also failed in Ukraine. Therefore, Mr. Abdul Ghany said, the option of establishing an civilized humanitarian alliance founded on clear standards must be considered, with the aim of such a body being to provide urgent protection for civilians from brutal regimes in situations where war crimes and crimes against humanity are perpetrated.
In conclusion, Mr. Abdul Ghany stressed that the Syrian regime, which bombed the Syrian people using chemical weapons, is a wholly unreliable entity that cannot and should not be given responsibility for distributing relief aid in the wake of the devastating earthquake that recently hit Syria, especially given the regime’s long, exhaustively documented history of stealing aid. Donor states, he added, must find alternative mechanisms since the overwhelming majority of aid donated through the regime will not reach those in need.