Syrian Legal Platform

The Role of Syrian Businesses in Conflict-Related Human Rights Abuses: Options for Accountability

The conflict in Syria has seen the commission of gross human rights abuses and international crimes by many actors, particularly by the Syrian authorities. The perpetrators must be held to account to fight impunity and preserve the international legal order. In Syria abuses and crimes are not constrained to those who carry weapons, businesses also play a role. Using examples, this paper shows that Syrian businesses have caused, contributed and/or are linked to human rights abuses committed in the Syrian conflict. Applying the framework of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, it argues that each type of involvement constitutes a violation of the internationally recognized business responsibility to respect human rights and justifies the adoption of accountability measures.

While accountability often refers to court-based processes, the paper argues that accountability should be defined more broadly given the current deadlock. The paper focuses on non-judicial accountability measures such as targeted economic sanctions and the adoption of measures to prevent the establishment of business relationships with Syrian businesses involved in conflict-related human rights abuses. It makes recommendations to stakeholders including States, UN Bodies and Agencies, NGOs, and foreign businesses on how to support the aforementioned accountability measures.