Syria has acceded to the seven major United Nations conventions concerned with human rights, namely; the Two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights; on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1969), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (2003), the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (2004), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1993), and the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (2005). Moreover, Syria has signed the two Optional Protocols of the Rights of the Child Convention concerning the involvement of children in armed conflicts, sale of children, exploiting children in prostitution and pornographic materials (2003).
Syria has also acceded to the eight International Labour Organization conventions on human rights, namely: the two conventions (87 and 98) on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining (1960 and 1957 respectively), the two conventions (29 and 105) on Forced or Compulsory Labour (1960 and 1958 respectively), the two conventions (100 and 111) concerning the Elimination of Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation (1957 and 1960 respectively), and the two conventions (138 and 182) pertaining to Forbidding the Employment of Children and Minors (2001 and 2003 respectively).
Syria made reservations on some provisions of the conventions it has acceded to:
- The two covenants: public declaration that acceding to the two conventions does not imply recognizing Israel or establishing any relations with Israel. Also reservations on article (26/1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and article (48/1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights pertaining to accession criteria. Syria believes that the two articles are not consistent with the goals of the two covenants because they do not indiscriminately grant states the chance to become parties to the covenants.
- The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: article (22) concerning resolution of disputes among states over implementing the convention or interpreting its provisions. Syria also considered that acceding to the convention does not imply recognizing Israel or establishing relations with it.
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: article (2) pertaining to equality before the law and forbidding discrimination against women in constitutions and national legislation. Article (9/2) concerning equal rights in the citizenship of children. Article (15/4) pertaining to freedom of movement and residence. Article (16/1) on equal rights during marriage and upon its dissolution, within the confines of Islamic law (Shari'a). Article (29/1) concerning arbitration between states in cases of dispute over interpreting or implementing this convention. Syria also considered that acceding to the convention does not imply recognition of Israel.
- The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: article (20) concerning the right of the committee overseeing this convention to ask state parties to examine the information it has received and present their remarks on such information, to carry secret investigation, and to request to visit the state in question in case of conducting secret investigation. Syria does not recognize the jurisdiction of the committee as described in this article. Syria also considered that acceding to the convention does not imply recognition of Israel.
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child: general reservation on all provisions that are incompatible with Syrian laws and principles of Islamic law (Shari'a), especially article (14) pertaining to the right of the child to freedom of belief and religion. Articles (20 and 21) on adoption. The government withdrew its reservations on articles 20, 21 pertaining to adoption and referred its decision to the parliament to take proper constitutional procedures.
Syria has agreed to the "Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam" issued in 1990 by foreign ministers of Muslim countries. The declaration is a guiding document that does not require ratification. Syria also ratified the "Arab Charter of Human Rights/Amended" prepared by the Arab Summit in Tunisia in May 2004, however, it has not been enforced yet.
Human Rights Institutions
Syria has a limited governmental institutions concerned with human rights, and a limited number of non-governmental organizations that operate at an overall level, such as: The Arab Organization for Human Rights in Syria (2004), Committees for Defending Human Rights in Syria (2000) and Syrian Human Rights Association (2001).