On 14 November 2017, the general commanders of four Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigades signed various Deeds of Commitment during a ceremony in the Alabama Room at Geneva town hall in the presence of a representative from the Geneva authorities. The Al-Motasim Brigade, Brigade 51 and the Al-Hamza division are part of the Euphrates Shield and are active in northern Syria, whereas the Al-Watan Liberation Movement is active in the province of Homs and in central Syria.
The four brigades pledged to ban any act of sexual violence against any persons. The Brigade 51, the Al-Motasim Brigade and the Al-Watan Liberation Movement committed to prohibiting the recruitment and use of children below 18 years old and to facilitating the provision of medical care and education to children. In addition, the Al-Motasem Brigade, the Brigade 51 and the Al-Hamza division also committed to banning the use of anti-personnel mines in the conflict.
These commitments followed those made by four other Free Syrian Army brigades in 2017 and by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in 2014. “More than ever, the promotion of norms that put limits on war is essential, especially in a conflict that has seen many horrifying violations and numerous war crimes. This is an important step for the civilian populations that are suffering from this conflict every day,” said Hichem Khadhraoui, Geneva Call’s Director of Operations.
“We came voluntarily to sign these commitments; even during conflict we have a duty to respect civilians, children and women, and we encourage other armed actors to follow this path. Even though we were already familiar with the law of armed conflict, we will set up a mechanism to implement the rules of the Deeds among our fighters in the field,” said the four commanders—Mr Motasem Abbas, Mr Fateh Hassoun, Mr Mohamad Deri and Mr Seifeldin Alboulad—in a joint statement.
Geneva Call and the four FSA brigades have agreed on an implementation plan for the concrete enforcement of these commitments in the field. Additional measures to reinforce internal policies will be taken, and training sessions on how the obligations inherent in the Deeds affect officers and combatants will be provided. Geneva Call will closely monitor the brigades’ respect for these obligations via its field team and its network of partners. Brigades will be held accountable for their commitments.
Geneva Call started a humanitarian dialogue with these particular brigades in 2013. Since 2015, Geneva Call has conducted in-depth training sessions on humanitarian norms for most of their leaders and officers in Syria and in neighbouring countries.
Indeed, in 2017, the organization conducted dozens of training sessions for members of various Syrian armed non-State actors and led the Fighter, not Killer awareness-raising campaign on the rules of war and the protection of civilians on major TV channels and social media.
The Deed of Commitment is a formal humanitarian commitment that armed non-State actors (ANSA) sign to ensure respect for humanitarian norms. The signature of this commitment does not give any political or legal recognition to these actors. Geneva Call adheres to the principles of neutrality and impartiality in its work and strictly limits itself to increasing compliance with humanitarian norms by ANSAs in order to ensure greater protection for the civilian populations.