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Mandate given to the HNC by 97 armed opposition groups, to take decisions in respect of the temporary truce

Date Posted: 26 February 2016

The High Negotiations Committee confirms that the Free Syrian Army and the armed opposition groups have agreed to commit to a truce, to begin at 00:00 on Saturday 27 February 2016 and to continue for two weeks.  The HNC also emphasises the need to implement the observations it made vis-à-vis the draft plan for the temporary truce put forward by the US and the Russian Federation.

This approval comes following a mandate given to the HNC by 97 armed opposition groups, to take decisions in respect of the temporary truce.   As such, a military committee has been established, chaired by General Coordinator of the Committee, to follow-up and coordinate; once more stressing the need to implement the observations made by the Committee to the United Nations, which include a set of key control mechanisms to be in place to ensure the success of the truce in Syria.

The HNC delivered a memorandum on Wednesday to the ISSG, the UN Security Council Presidency and to the UN Special Envoy for Syria.  The memorandum conveyed the Committee’s appreciation for international efforts to protect Syrian civilians and reiterated the Committee’s commitment to a political solution which ensures a transition of power in Syria beginning with the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive authority, without Assad and his clique, and in accordance with the Geneva Communiqué 2012, UNSC resolutions 2118 and 2254.  Furthermore, the HNC urged the international community to fulfil its responsibilities and legal duties to protect the Syrian people from war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the regime, the militias and mercenary groups allied to it, in addition to the war crimes committed by Russian and Iranian forces on Syrian territory.

The memorandum noted several observations which include stressing the importance of delegating the supervision of the truce to the ISSG, in addition, to compelling Russia and Iran to halt hostilities in Syria as they are also parties in the conflict.  Importantly, the HNC noted that a truce according to international law takes effect when all the warring parties on the ground unanimously announce their acceptance and adherence, without inclusion of political commitments, and therefore, the truce must directly focus on the immediate and unconditional implementation of the articles 12, 13 and 14 of UNSCR 2254; non-implementation of UNSCR2254 from the commencement of this truce means non-adherence to it.

The memorandum also stressed the regime and its allies must not exploit the wording of the proposed plan to continue hostile acts against opposition groups under the pretext of fighting terrorism.  Similarly, Russia must not continue its indiscriminate aerial bombardment which has caused the deaths of thousands and the destruction of schools, hospitals and many other civilian targets.  The memorandum stressed the right of the opposition to defend itself in the event it is attacked.

The HNC memorandum also noted the need for an international mechanism which clearly specifies a time frame and duration for this temporary truce as well as determining protocols for ensuring enforcement and compliance.  Moreover, the SCN also noted the need for a neutral party to verify adherence as well as to report any violations of the cessation, and to identify those responsible.

The Committee emphasised that overlooking the observations it noted, will force it to announce a unilateral truce based on international laws governing the conduct of truces and temporary halts of combat operations.  The Committee shall take such measure in consideration of the humanitarian situation in Syria and for the purpose of implementing UNSCR 2254 for the delivery of humanitarian aid to all those in need.  This measure will simultaneously take effect with the establishment of a supervising committee by the HNC to monitor violations and identify those responsible.   The HNC will inform all relevant international bodies and will assess the extent of improvement or lack thereof in the humanitarian situation during this unilateral truce phase.  Furthermore, it must be reiterated that the opposition retains the right to self-defence against any external aggression.

In his closing remarks, General Coordinator of the HNC, Dr. Hijab stated: "We are committed to complete transparency with the Syrian people, and we are not engaged in any backdoor deals.  Our main objective for this truce is to allow for the implementation of the humanitarian provisions of UNSCR 2254.  The obligations and conditions of the planned truce must be fair, comprehensive and binding on all parties. The means by which the truce takes place need to be unambiguous and in accordance with well-defined mechanisms to avoid dispute in the future, and to ensure success."