GENEVA (7 October 2020) – UN human rights experts* today praised Canada for bringing a five-year-old orphan girl home from a squalid Syrian detention camp, and encouraged other countries to follow Canada’s example.
“We are pleased that this little girl has been returned from Al Hol Camp to her loving and anxious family in Canada,” said the experts. “Family members have made exceptional efforts to ensure this child’s safe return, which was an absolute humanitarian necessity given the extreme living conditions for children in that camp.”
“There is not enough food and no clean water, adequate medical care or proper education,” they said. “There is no proper shelter from the elements, and children are exposed to harassment, violence and exploitation. Their most fundamental human rights are routinely being violated.” Al Hol, home to about 70,000 people, is a camp in northern Syria run by the Syrian Democratic Forces.
“We have found the conditions for women and children in these Syrian detention camps reaches the threshold standard for torture, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law, and it is absolutely urgent that women and children held there be repatriated,” the experts said.
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Francois-Philippe Champagne announced on Monday that the girl was being reunited with her extended family in Canada.
“We hope that this Canadian child and her family now will be supported in line with the UN Key Principles for the Protection, Repatriation, Prosecution, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Women and Children with Links to United Nations Listed Terrorist Groups and consistent with her status as a child victim,” said the human rights experts.
“We call on other States to follow Canada’s actions by ensuring the return of their citizens – especially children – from these inhumane and horrific conditions, and to bring them home to safety where their human rights will be protected,” they said.
They also said Canada’s actions demonstrate a practical commitment to move from words to action on key principles contained in the recently adopted Human Rights Council resolution on promoting, protecting and respecting women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights in humanitarian situations.
They also urged Canada to repatriate its other citizens living in these camps and ensure that the rights of all of these vulnerable individuals are vindicated, that where appropriate prosecution is enabled, and to seek return and reintegration of remaining children with urgency.
*The experts: Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism*; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; ***Leigh Toomey** (Chair-Rapporteur),**Elina Steinerte** (Vice-Chair), José Guevara Bermúdez, Seong-Phil Hong, Sètondji Adjovi, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;.**Elizabeth Broderick** (Chair), Melissa Upreti (Vice Chair), Alda Facio, Meskerem Geset Techane, Ivana Radačić, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment*; Ms. Mama Fatima Singhateh,Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children; and Mr. Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants*
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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