The National Coalition [official website, in Arabic], the main opposition group in Syria, announced [text, press release] on Monday that it will not attend peace talks this week in Switzerland unless the UN withdraws its invitation to Iran to attend the talks. In a press release, National Coalition head Ahmad Jarba accused Iran of “carrying out criminal acts in Syria, [and if] Iran is present in Geneva through coordination with the Assad regime [the National Coalition] will not be at the negotiating table." Iran is the primary foreign backer of Syrian President Bashar, al-Assad [official website, JURIST news archive], and its attendance at the peace conference has generated substantial controversy [Reuters report]. The National Coalition has given the UN until 2:00pm on Monday to withdraw its invitation to Iran.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] continues to threaten the lives of millions of citizens in the country and refugees have emigrated to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq in alarming numbers since 2011. Last week UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] warned [JURIST report] Syrian opposition groups that recent mass executions are in violation of international human rights, and that these acts may also constitute war crimes. Last month the UN investigated the use of chemical weapons [JURIST report] in Syria and found credible evidence that several more attacks occurred than previously reported. Also last month, the UN heightened its concern [JURIST report] surrounding the country in a report on global rights progress, citing Syria and the Central African Republic [JURIST news archive] as two major areas of instability. Earlier in December the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported growing evidence of crimes against humanity [JURIST report] in Syria. In October the UN called for a cease fire [JURIST report] in rural Damascus to allow humanitarian agencies to evacuate all remaining civilians and deliver medical aid to conflict areas.