Report of Arab Observer Mission "Objective," According to Damascus

Article Summary
Al-Safir’s Damascus correspondent, Ziad Haider, summarizes the Arab League Observers’ report, which describes the undertakings of the mission thus far and government and opposition reactions to its work. The report further outlines the mission’s requests for further support, the need for a national dialogue and the heavy toll the present crisis is taking on ordinary Syrians.

Syrian official sources told Al-Safir that the report handed over by the [Arab League] Observer Mission to the Arab [Peace] Initiative Committee [January 22, 2012] is "objective," pointing out that it contains "some good points." In fact, it emphasizes the presence of [armed groups] in Syria and highlights the media exaggerations regarding the Syrian crisis.

The sources say that Syria has not yet received any request to extend the monitoring mission, but that it would tend to approve such a request.

The following are some parts of the report issued by the Arab Observer Mission:

- The mission wants to extend its work for another month, provided that the Secretary-General of the Arab League convinces the Syrian authorities to sign a new protocol.

- [The mission] needs administrative and logistic support in order to be able to carry out its duties, as well as media and political support to create a favorable climate for the accomplishment of its mission.

- The report emphasizes the need to accelerate the political process and launch a national dialogue in parallel with the work of the mission, so as to create a climate of trust to contribute to the success of the mission and prevents the prolongation of its work, which would prove counterproductive.

- The mission confirmed that there are armed groups not taken into account by the protocol. These groups have definitely emerged as a result of the government’s excessive use of force, prior to the arrival [of the observers], to put down protests demanding the fall of the regime. In some regions, these groups are attacking Syrian security and citizens alike, in reaction [to the oppression]. The government, in turn, is confronting [these attacks] with violence. Eventually, citizens pay the price [for these actions and reactions], with many people being killed or injured.

- The mission noted that since its arrival in Syria, the opposition has welcomed [the observers] and citizens have been relieved by their presence. However, the period following the issuance of the Ministerial Committee statement on January 8 [2012] was plagued by [serious] events, which have gradually decreased in intensity [since then].

- The mission noted that the government is contributing to its success in [carrying out] its task by imposing no restrictions on its movement. Moreover, it felt that a state of tension is plaguing some cities and that there are citizens suffering from injustice and oppression. [According to the report,] citizens are convinced that they have to solve the Syrian crisis peacefully and [with the help of] the Arab [League], without [the need to] internationalize it, so that they can live in peace and security.

- The mission was informed by the opposition - especially in Daraa, Homs, Hama and Idlib - that some members of the opposition resorted to arms in order to confront the oppression and tyranny suffered by the Syrian people. The mission confirmed that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as well as armed groups from the opposition claimed responsibility for the bombings which targeted a number of buildings, pipelines, trains and police officers.

- Ending the work of the mission after such a short period would erase the positive results so far achieved and likely [throw Syria] into chaos, given that no party to the crisis is prepared or qualified to resolve it through [dialogue].

- The mission lacks the necessary political and media support to perform its work. [According to the report,] the mission observed media exaggerations about the nature of accidents and the number of dead and injured in the demonstrations taking place in some cities.

- The mission received reports from sources outside Syria claiming that the number of Syrian detainees totaled 16,237. However, according to reports from the opposition [inside Syria,] the number is no more than 12,005. [Field] troops confirmed the veracity of these numbers and proved the existence of conflicting statements as well as incomplete and inaccurate information, including duplicate names. The mission is still verifying with the governmental agencies the accuracy of these numbers. [The mission] explained that it has handed the Syrian government all of the lists received from both the Syrian opposition inside and outside Syria, demanding the release of these detainees in accordance with the protocol signed between the Arab League and the Syrian Government.

- The mission found that the total number of detainees reported released by the government upon presidential pardon, was 7,604. The mission verified the number of released detainees and found that they were 3,483 before the Amnesty Decree and 1,669 after it, for a total of 5,152 released detainees.

- The report highlighted a number of constraints faced by the observers. Foremost among these is the inability of some observers to cope with the difficulties that their work entails. In addition, a number of observers are incapable of carrying out their duty due to old age. Moreover, 22 observers apologized for not completing their mission for personal reasons.

- Some observers were not committed and failed to duly carry out their tasks. In fact, they contacted officials from their countries and reported events in an exaggerated way. This led their officials to draw an erroneous picture of the situation based on this [exaggerated] assessment. Moreover, some observers viewed their mission in Syria as a pleasure trip.

- The government did welcome the mission and its mission head. However, it has adopted a comprehensive strategy to prevent the mission from reaching the heart of the [affected] regions, by distracting it with issues of concern to the government. The mission has resisted this approach.

- The mission has faced a fierce media campaign [against it] since its inception. In fact, some media [outlets] published unfounded statements which exaggerated events and distorted the truth. This manufactured media is contributing to the increase in tensions among Syrian citizens, while misleading the work of observers.

- The report identified the basic needs of the mission in case of renewal. The mission needs 100 additional, youthful observers, preferably from the military; 30 armored cars; light bullet-proof vests; cameras mounted on cars; modern communication devices; and day and night-vision field glasses.

- The report demanded increasing fivefold the mission’s financial resources to US $5 million instead of $1 million, to be able to carry out its functions.

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