ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON SYRIA

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON SYRIA
Concludes General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, including the Right to Development
11 March 2013

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria.  It also concluded its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

Paulo Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, introducing the report, said that the destabilizing effects of the conflict were increasingly felt throughout the region and the events in Syria were escalating very quickly into a disaster that could overwhelm the international response capacity – political, security and humanitarian.  The Commission’s findings indicated that in their conduct of hostilities, the parties failed to protect civilians, and to distinguish themselves from civilians in the areas in which they operated, unnecessarily subjecting civilians to the brutality of war.  All stakeholders in the Syrian crisis should redouble their efforts to facilitate a negotiated settlement and all parties to the conflict must comply with international humanitarian law in their conduct of hostilities.  Those responsible for grave violations must be held responsible as there could be no enduring peace without justice.

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that the Commission quite deliberately ignored all documents and information provided by the Government of Syria.  In its conclusions and recommendations it had not spoken of the causes of the worsening situation.  There were two objectives underlying the war in Syria, namely to dismantle Syria and to make it a puppet at the service of Israel, which had not openly entered in the conflict but constantly cooperated with Qatar, Turkey and the United States.  Some had tried to give an international dimension to this crisis to ensure intervention.  Qatar had financed and armed tens of thousands of mercenaries from 30 countries, and Turkey had provided the military base.  They should not forget the war of misinformation.  All of this ensured that the blood of the people had become a political tool, and the crisis had shown the Syrians who their true friends and enemies were. 

In the interactive dialogue, speakers expressed concern about the widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law taking place in Syria, and called for an immediate end to hostilities, highlighting the suffering of the Syrian people.  Numerous delegations also expressed concern about the human rights situation of children, as well as reports of sexual violence against women, men, and children.  Calls were made for the international community to support the neighbouring countries that were hosting refugees.  There was a need for a political solution to be found and for those responsible for the perpetration of violations to be held accountable.  Concern was also expressed with regards to the continuing and acute lack of humanitarian access.  A number of speakers also supported the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and supported the referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. 

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Egypt, Turkey, European Union, Cuba, United States, Libya on behalf of a cross-regional group of States, Italy, Chile, United Arab Emirates, Sweden on behalf of Nordic countries, Portugal, Qatar, Maldives, Russia, Austria, Iran, Switzerland, Estonia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Peru, France, Venezuela, Morocco, China, United Kingdom, Germany, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Jordan, Japan, Canada, Romania, Australia, Tunisia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Poland, Slovakia, Malaysia, Belgium, Slovenia, Kuwait, Thailand, Mexico, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Angola, Libya and Botswana.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Press Emblem Campaign, International Commission of Jurists, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights and Amnesty International.

In the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, speakers expressed concern about a number of areas, including private military and security companies, torture, arbitrary detention, poverty and hunger.  Attention was also drawn to human rights violations and discrimination against women in India, evidence of torture in Sri Lanka, deteriorating education and the plight of women in Iraq, as well as the lack of the right to self-determination and the human rights violations faced by the people of Kashmir, and the situation of the Tindouf camps.

The following non-governmental organizations took the floor: Sudwind, International Humanist and Ethical Union, International Educational Development, Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique International, Hope International, Indian Council of South America, International Association of Schools of Social Work, Liberation, International Buddhist Relief Organisation, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Association of World Citizens, Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Développement dans la Région des Grand Lacs, Human Rights Watch, World Organization Against Torture, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, North South XXI, World Muslim Congress, Society for Threatened People, Agence Internationale pour le Développement, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Centre for Environmental and Management Studies.

At the end of the meeting, Nigeria and China spoke in right of reply.

At 1 p.m., during the midday meeting, the Council will begin an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  This will be followed by an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.   

General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, including the Right to Development

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said Sudwind had a special interest in the right to a clean environment and welcomed the report of the Independent Expert on this topic.  Sudwind brought to the attention of the Council the issue of drying of wetlands and both sweet and salty lakes in Iran, due to wrong decisions to construct dams on those water sources.  This was causing dust, sand and salt storms.

International Humanist and Ethical Union said that the business of private military and security companies was worth billions of dollars and States must be held responsible for the businesses conducted in their name.  This outsourcing deprived people of an essential right, which was a democratic control of military means, including in foreign territories.

International Education Development drew attention to the detrimental impact on international humanitarian law of wrong labelling of armed conflict as terrorism or anti-terrorism, which was the case of the conflict in Sri Lanka.  The Government hid behind the terrorist label of the Tamils to demonize the Tamil population both at home and abroad.
Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation said that the act of torture was one of the gravest forms of abuse of power by a State.  There was evidence of the prevalence of torture in Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka had yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.  The Government’s behaviour demonstrated the need to convene an independent international mechanism, as recommended by the High Commissioner.

Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique International, said that international observers and national human rights organizations could not enter the camps in Tindouf and the international community had to know what was happening in those camps.  Those in the Tindouf camps had to be able to freely circulate but there was no respect for such rights.  The non-governmental organization urged the Council to call for the lifting of the blockade. 

Hope International said that when a human being was hungry all other rights were denied.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization 925 million people were undernourished.  There had to be targeted vocational training to eradicate poverty and hunger.  Hope International had established this system and implemented it.  This was indeed possible and progress could be made, if the States that had promised aid actually delivered it. 

Indian Council of South America said that many countries in South America discriminated against human rights defenders and it called on the Human Rights Council to address the issue of a human rights defender, David Ravelo Crespo who had been sentenced to 18 years in prison for attempted murder.  The Indian Council of South America diplomatically protested the illegal annexation of Alaska and Hawaii.

International Association of Schools of Social Work said that in 2006, a shadow report had been submitted to the Council on the violations of human rights of the indigenous peoples in Hawaii by the United States, which were causing serious harm to Hawaiian and other indigenous peoples and the negation of their right to self-determination.  The Council should support the indigenous land and water protection initiatives.

Liberation said that enforced disappearances remained widespread in many conflicts due to wide powers given to military forces.  Violence against women in India was perpetrated with impunity, as was sexual violence committed by the armed forces, particularly in conflict areas.  The multiple human rights violations across India caused serious challenges and efforts must be made to provide redress to the victims.

International Buddhist Relief Organization said that it was unfortunate to note that India had failed to fulfill its obligations in compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  International Buddhist Relief Organization was very concerned over the situation of violations of human rights of women in India and the discrimination they faced, and the impunity for those that were responsible for such acts.

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said it was disappointing that despite the unprecedented violence experienced by women in India, international human rights organizations and their respective administrations, civil society had failed to persuade the Government to eliminate division.  The Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy appealed to the Council to call on India to end all forms of violence against women. 

Association of World Citizens said that any war dehumanized humans.  Half a million people and women had been tortured in the Kivu region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Whatever armies they were talking about were cruel.  Should the international community not think about re-educating all of those armed forces, regardless of their callings and cultural environments? 

Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Développement dans la Région des Grand Lacs expressed concern about the violation of economic, social and cultural rights which happened on a daily basis, particularly in territories under the control of separatist militias such as the Polisario.  The shameful Tinduf camp must be closed and the population must be allowed to return to their homes and territories.  

Human Rights Watch said that the recent arbitrary arrest and politically motivated prosecution of an alleged rape victim and a freelance journalist in Somalia had raised questions about the commitment of the new Government to basic rights, including protecting citizens from Government abuses.  Somalia should urgently resolve this case in accordance with its international human rights obligations.

World Organization against Torture, in a joint statement, expressed concern about the access of non-governmental organizations to funding, particularly foreign funding, being increasingly restricted by Governments around the world, such as Belarus and Ethiopia.  Restrictive legislation currently under consideration in Egypt, Bangladesh and Bahrain was another issue of concern.

United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said that human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, could only exist in a democratic and peaceful environment, and Pakistan lacked this.  Drugs worth $ 30 billion passed through Pakistan.  This illegal money financed the war in Afghanistan and impacted on the situation in Baluchistan.  Pakistan found a new exploiting partner in China to dominate the region. 

North South XXI was concerned about the handling of the case of an Egyptian national, arbitrarily detained in Switzerland without having been convicted of any crime for more than six years.  It also drew attention to the serious harm to human rights caused by the scourge and threat of war and unlawful sanctions.  This year marked the tenth anniversary of the unlawful aggression against Iraq.  The Council had failed thus far failed to address such unlawful violence.  

World Muslim Congress was concerned about the lack of the right to self- determination of the people of Kashmir, who faced rights violations by Indian forces, and faced death and destruction.  World Muslim Congress was concerned by the arbitrary detention of innocent Kashmiris by the Indian administration.  It requested the Council to intervene and India to stop all kinds of human rights violations in Kashmir.

Society for Threatened People said that no region was free from arbitrary detention and there were persistent violators of those rights, while victims most often included minorities, political activists, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists.  In China, the authorities were cracking down on Tibetan monks and often equated peaceful political dissent in Uyghur Autonomous Region with terrorism.

Agence Internationale pour le Développement said that Sahrawi women were subject to violence and discrimination, including early marriages, due to which many young women could not return to their families in Spain and often had to engage in intercourse with officials of consular services in order to obtain a visa.  This was the situation of women in the Polisario camps too.

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada cited the case of Mr. Khadr as an example of the failure by the United States and Canada to ensure accountability and provide remedies for victims of State-sponsored torture.  He had been arbitrarily detained and denied protection of law and while in United States custody had been subjected to sleep deprivation, indefinite detention and denied habeas corpus.   

International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that it was gravely concerned with regards to the economic and political and social human rights violations in Iraq and drew particular attention to the deteriorating education system, and to the plight of Iraqi women.  It asked the Council to respond to the cries of the Iraqi people and urged it to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iraq. 

Centre for Environmental and Management Studies referred to the situation in the province of Baluchistan with particular reference to arbitrary detention.  International and Pakistani human rights organizations and representatives of the United Nations had testified to the fact that a large number of Baluch had been detained without legal formalities being observed. 

Right of Reply

Nigeria, speaking in a right of reply in response to a statement made by the non-governmental organization Jubilee Campaign, said that the allegations made in that statement were inaccurate and misleading.  Nigeria rejected claims that Christians in northern urban centres were pressured to live in especially designated zones or that schools in Christian areas had been denied basic maintenance and had closed down.  There was no religious war of any kind in Nigeria.    

China, speaking in a right of reply to statements made by non-governmental organizations, said that China paid much attention to the economic, social and cultural development of its minorities and had adopted measures to protect the interests of minorities, including the Tibetans.  All persons were equal before the law in China and those who violated the law were brought to justice regardless of ethnic background or status.  China and Pakistan were friendly nations and Chinese enterprises were involved in development projects in Pakistan, which was indicative of the cooperation between the two countries.      

Documentation

The Council has before it the Updated report on the work of the Commission of Inquiry on the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/22/59); and a corrigendum to the report of the Commission of Inquiry on the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/22/59/Corr.1).

Introduction of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria

PAULO PINHEIRO, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on the Situation in Syria, introducing the report, said that the unrest in Syria had reached new heights of destruction.  The harrowing violence continued unabated with hostilities consuming vast swathes of the country.  Millions were refugees or internally displaced persons and an estimated two thirds of those fleeing Syria were women and children.  The coping mechanisms within the country were being stretched to the limits and many faced daily deprivations and threats to their existence.  The destabilizing effects of the conflict were increasingly felt throughout the region and the events in Syria were escalating very quickly into a disaster that could overwhelm the international response capacity – political, security and humanitarian.  There was an urgent need for a sustained diplomatic initiative to put an end to the violence and suffering, but so far the efforts to negotiate a political settlement had failed.  The war displayed all signs of a destructive stalemate where neither party seemed able to prevail over the other militarily; the result had been an escalation in the use of force.  The Commission’s findings indicated that in their conduct of hostilities, the parties failed to protect civilians, or to distinguish themselves from civilians in the areas in which they operated, unnecessarily subjecting civilians to the brutality of war.

Turning to the issue of massacres, Mr. Pinheiro said that information had been received on scores of incidents and that the investigations had progressed on about 20 cases despite the lack of access.  Government forces had targeted civilians and conducted indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.  The Commission was particularly concerned about the capture and detention of 21 United Nations peacekeepers by the Martyrs of Yarmouk armed group last week, which it saw emblematic of the increasing recklessness with which the parties to the conflict treated human life.  Young boys remained at risk of recruitment and use in hostilities, particularly by anti-Government armed groups; the Syrian army was increasingly relying on pro-Government militias which had fewer safeguards against child recruitment.  The increased militarization of the conflict had devastating consequences for civilians and there was increased human cost associated with increased availability of weapons.  An estimated 100,000 Syrian were wounded in the conflict and a quarter of them were permanently disabled.  The security situation had prevented many humanitarian organizations from fulfilling their missions; hospitals and health centres were targeted and destroyed and civilians left to languish in dire need of treatment. 

All stakeholders in the Syrian crisis should redouble their efforts to facilitate a negotiated settlement and all parties to the conflict must comply with international humanitarian law in their conduct of hostilities.  Those responsible for grave violations must be held responsible as there could be no enduring peace without justice.  If the national, regional and international actors failed to find a solution to the conflict, the consequences would be the political, economic and social destruction of Syria and its society, with devastating implications for the region and the world.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that the Commission of Inquiry quite deliberately ignored all documents and information provided by the Government of Syria.  This report, much more than others in the past, was based on wrong information.  Despite warnings, the Commission of Inquiry had ignored the geopolitical situation in the region.  The Commission had recognised that it had conducted hundreds of interviews, face to face or on Skype, and that people had been consulted that conducted campaigns against the Government outside or within the country and no-one else.  In its conclusions and recommendations, the Commission had not spoken of the causes of the worsening situation, including unilateral and unfair sanctions imposed by Western and Arab countries that had had a real impact on the Syrian people.  The Commission had recognised that it had not been able to draw clear conclusions as to the responsibility of armed groups with respect to enforced disappearances.  These statements were refuted, as many interviews were held with persons from within the country.  If the Commission was convinced it had the right to issue recommendations affecting international law then Syria wondered why it had not recommended naming Turkey and Qatar and including them in the Security Council list.  The Commission had ignored the central role played by some countries that supported terrorism in Syria.  Everyone knew that there were two objectives underlying the war in Syria, namely to dismantle Syria and to make it a puppet at the service of Israel, which had not openly entered in the conflict but constantly cooperated with Qatar, Turkey and the United States.  With reference to the Palestinian cause, their suffering was being forgotten.  Some had tried to give an international dimension to this crisis to ensure intervention.  Qatar had financed and armed tens of thousands of mercenaries from 30 countries, and Turkey had provided the military base.  They should not forget the war of misinformation.  All of this ensured that the blood of the people had become a political tool, and the crisis had shown the Syrians who their true friends and enemies were. 

Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria
    
Egypt said that Egypt was deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in Syria and the rising number of injured and displaced persons and refugees.  It condemned the use of violence against civilians and the flagrant abuses of human rights.  Those responsible should be identified and held accountable.  Egypt called on Syria to put an end to the violence in the country and said that a peaceful and genuine transition of power should be ensured while respecting the unity and territorial integrity of Syria.  Egypt stood by the people of Syria and their claims for equality and justice. 

Turkey said that Syria had failed to fulfil its responsibility to protect its own people.  The international community had also failed to protect the Syrian people from the atrocities of the Syrian regime, which had lost its legitimacy and was now surviving through oppression, terror and massacres.  The international community should establish the proper environment for access to humanitarian assistance for all in Syria, and perpetrators of crimes should bear the consequences of their actions. 

European Union said that it remained deeply concerned about the widespread and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Syria, which amounted to crimes against humanity and war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Syrian women, men and children were paying a heavy toll, and there should be no impunity for such violations and abuses.  The European Union urged the Syrian regime to stop targeting civilians, halt air strikes and artillery attacks, and to put an immediate end to all violence.

Cuba said Cuba continued to carefully monitor the situation in Syria and its international implications as the information continued to be manipulated by the media.  The appeals by those who were promoting regime change in Syria were alarming as was the silence in the face of terrorist attacks perpetrated against the Syrian people.  The report of the Commission of Inquiry was not sufficiently objective and Cuba was concerned that it prefabricated pretext for military intervention in Syria.

United States said that the latest report of the Commission of Inquiry detailed the horrifying details of killings, deliberate and systematic torture, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, and agreed that the Assad regime bore overwhelming responsibility.  The United States strongly condemned the regime’s brutality and said that those responsible for violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law must be held accountable. 

Libya, speaking on behalf of a cross-regional group of States, expressed deep concern about the gross human rights violations in Syria and that the civilian population was paying the highest price in this conflict.  Impunity was unacceptable and all those responsible for violations must be held accountable; international justice had an important role to play in this regard, particularly through the referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, which was the appropriate institution given the absence of national action in this regard. 

Italy agreed that an immediate cease-fire should be the priority in order to end the ongoing bloodshed, and called on all parties to allow immediate access to humanitarian aid in the whole territory of Syria.  Accountability for crimes of war and crimes against humanity had to be established and those who bore such responsibility, first of all the present leadership, would have no place in the future of Syria.  Italy had joined the cross-regional statement on a possible referral of the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court. 

Chile said that the situation facing the Syrian people was dramatic and unacceptable.  Chile made an urgent appeal for humanitarian access to be granted.  It was indispensable to ensure that all those involved in violations of international humanitarian and human rights law were held accountable for their acts.  It was important to contribute to the protection of millions of civilians.  Chile appealed to all sides to respect the norms to protect women and girls from gender-based violence. 

United Arab Emirates deeply regretted the effects of the dynamics of civil war in Syria which had affected civilians and ripped apart the social fabric of a complex society.  The conflict undermined peace and security in the whole region.   Two years had passed, but the problem of humanitarian access persisted acutely.  In the face of the worsening humanitarian needs, the United Arab Emirates called for bolstered assistance to relieve the suffering, and for greater support and assistance to reduce the burden borne by neighbouring countries that were hosting refugees. 

Sweden, speaking on behalf of Nordic countries, expressed concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria.  The increasing violence, human rights violations and the rising number of civilian casualties were unacceptable.  Syria should be home to all Syrians without discrimination, regardless of ethnic origin, gender or religion.  Special measures should be taken to protect Syrian children, who were growing up in traumatizing circumstances.  The Security Council should urgently address all aspects of the situation in Syria and consider referring the matter to the International Criminal Court.     

Portugal said that there was no doubt about the grave and widespread violations of human rights perpetrated by the Syrian regime, which amounted to crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Portugal stressed that those responsible for such acts must be held accountable, if not at the national level then before the International Criminal Court.  All violence must stop immediately in Syria and a political solution must be found to put an end to the intolerable violence and brutal repression suffered by the Syrian people. 

Qatar denounced the refusal of the Syrian regime to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry.  What was going on in Syria was true State terrorism undertaken by the Syrian regime against its own people.  Qatar expressed deep concern about the crimes against humanity committed in Syria, including murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearances, and strongly condemned the massacres perpetrated by the Syrian regime and pro-government militia.  Qatar called on the international community to offer assistance to the Syrian people.
Maldives called on the Syrian authorities to recognize that the civilized world would not tolerate a government killing its own people and expressed concern about the humanitarian situation and the many internally displaced people and refugees.  Efforts by the international community to bring an end to the situation had gone astray and Maldives called for urgent action to protect civilians in Syria and on the Government to cooperate with international partners to bring peace to the country and the region.

Russia said that a lot of work had gone into collecting testimonies and asked why the Commission of Inquiry consistently let the insurgents off the hook with regards to its accusations of sexual and gender-based violence.  Russia was surprised that the report did not call for lifting of the unilateral sanctions and did not agree with the referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  Lack of access on the ground could not be used as an excuse for an imbalanced report by the Commission of Inquiry.

Austria said that the civil war in Syria had become more militarized and brutalized and condemned the use of violence against civilians by the Assad regime.  Austria was concerned about crimes being increasingly committed by the military opposition.  Civilians paid the price; over a million had fled the country and those in the country lived a very precarious existence.  Humanitarian organizations must be given full and unfettered access to all the territory and all perpetrators and those ordering the crimes must be held to account without exception.

Iran said that a sustained cessation of hostilities remained of paramount importance to end the violence, gross human rights violations and abuses.  Iran shared the view that there was no alternative to a political solution and that the best solution continued to be a negotiated settlement involving an inclusive and meaningful dialogue among all parties that reflected the legitimate aspirations of all segments of Syrian society.  Iran supported the Commission’s call for all parties concerned to curb the proliferation and supply of weapons and to address the sources thereof. 

Switzerland said all stakeholders should put an end to the violence in Syria and respect international obligations, and that it was important to continue to document evidence, to ensure that victims would have access to justice.  Switzerland emphasised the recommendation to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.  Finding a solution to the current crisis meant having a frank and inclusive dialogue meeting the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and guaranteeing the human rights of the population.  What additional means could States use to support the Commission and ensure it could fulfill its mandate?

Estonia expressed its full support for the work and efforts of the Commission of Inquiry and supported the extension of the Commission’s mandate.  The results of its work would hopefully encourage efforts and action to investigate all alleged violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law, and perpetrators of war crimes or crimes against humanity should be brought to justice.  Estonia also noted that each country may and should help refugees and victims of the Syrian civil war. 

Brazil said that it followed with distress the escalation of violence and the deterioration of the humanitarian and human rights situation in Syria, where there was a clear violation of international humanitarian law.  Brazil strongly condemned all violence against civilians, particularly women and children, and stressed that Syria was primarily responsible for protecting its own citizens.  There was no military solution to the conflict.  The only alternative was to strengthen the diplomatic and political efforts to find a solution through an inclusive, Syrian-led political process. 

Saudi Arabia said that it was deplorable to see that the human rights situation in Syria was worsening and that regime forces were carrying out crimes against humanity, including rapes, killings and enforced disappearances.  The international community was not meeting the needs of the Syrian people to guarantee their basic rights.  As the situation in Syria had become catastrophic, it was necessary to take steps to guarantee the transfer of power in the country, to have a unified international stance on the matter, and to shed light on the violations perpetrated against the Syrian people. 

Peru expressed concern at the worsening of the situation in Syria, where the escalation of violence and increasing radicalism and militarization had resulted in the loss of civilian life.  The human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law which occurred in Syria amounted to crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Violence should stop immediately and human rights should be respected by all the parties involved in the conflict.  Peru supported all diplomatic efforts to stop the violence in Syria and to create an environment that would lead to a peaceful solution.
     
France said that the 23 million Syrians were being subjected to the murderous behaviour of the regime and this suffering was inadmissible.  The humanitarian situation was taking on dramatic proportions and the whole international community must mobilize its support for the efforts of Mr. Brahimi to stop the violence.  The Human Rights Council should extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry for another year as it owed it to the Syrian people who were calling for justice.

Venezuela deeply regretted the loss of life in Syria and said that during the recent meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, Member States had called for a peaceful settlement to the dispute in accordance with international law and categorically rejected any foreign military intervention.  The world powers should stop the pressure on the people and authorities of Syria and the media should stop demonizing the efforts of the Government to advance a national dialogue.

Morocco shared the concern about the dramatic deterioration of the humanitarian and human rights situation in Syria and condemned the bombing of elementary infrastructure such as hospitals and bakeries.  Morocco had been working with a group of Arab countries in the Human Rights Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria and expressed hope that the solution would be soon found to put an end to violence in the country and to fulfil the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.
    
China said that it was deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation and condemned all violence against civilians and paid great attention to the humanitarian situation.  The urgent task was to urge various parties to ensure a ceasefire and facilitate international humanitarian assistance.  The crisis could only be resolved through political means.  Relevant parties should urge the Government and opposition groups to start a dialogue as soon as possible.  China called on the Council to play a constructive role in facilitating a political solution to the problems in Syria.

United Kingdom said that it was appalled by reports of sexual violence being committed by Government forces against men, women, and children, as well as the widespread violation of children’s rights.  It was clear for its part that all individuals responsible for human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable and the United Kingdom fully supported the call for the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.  The report confirmed that the Government of President Assad bore overwhelming responsibility for the situation in Syria and for the worst human rights violations. 

Germany said that the Syrian regime was responsible for gross and systematic violations of human rights and for acts that amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Germany also noted with deep concern that some anti-Government armed groups continued to violate human rights and that some were responsible for war crimes, such as murder, torture and hostage-taking.  Germany was deeply worried by the plight of Syria’s children and was particularly shocked by numerous accounts of sexual violence against women, men and children. 

Czech Republic expressed deep dismay at the unacceptable levels of violence in Syria and strongly condemned the widespread and systematic violation of human rights in the country.  It was appalling that Syrian government forces continued to resort to indiscriminate attacks against civilians, including use of ballistic missiles and airstrikes, unlawful killings, torture, and rape.  The Czech Republic called on all parties involved in the conflict to abide by humanitarian law and to spare the civilian population.  It also strongly supported the extension of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry.

Bulgaria expressed serious concern at the escalation of violence, the systematic violations of human rights, and the catastrophic deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria.  Bulgaria shared the aspirations of the Syrian people for a peaceful and pluralistic society in which there was no room for discrimination, and called for the intensification of international efforts to respond to the growing humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.  Bulgaria had contributed 300,000 euros in humanitarian assistance and was exploring options to provide additional support.   

Jordan said that the deterioration of the human rights situation in Syria was regrettable and expressed deep concern at the worsening political crisis in the country.  It was imperative to find an urgent political solution to the situation in order to help maintain the sovereignty, stability, and territorial integrity of Syria.  Jordan had kept the door open to the Syrian people fleeing their country but was facing an increasing burden.  It called, therefore, on the international community to assume its responsibility towards Jordan and other countries receiving Syrian refugees.    

Japan appreciated the detailed report of the Commission of Inquiry despite the challenging circumstances.  The deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation was deplorable and regrettable.  Japan condemned the Syrian authorities for their indiscriminate attacks against their own citizens and said that it was vital that perpetrators of violations were identified.  Japan urged all parties to the conflict to comply with international law and allow for humanitarian access.  An inclusive dialogue was necessary to achieve a lasting peace and Japan supported the efforts of Special Envoy Brahimi and the extension of the Commission’s mandate.

Canada strongly condemned the violence exercised by the Assad regime and called on all parties to fulfil their international obligations and to allow for humanitarian access.  Canada had provided substantial resources to help alleviate the humanitarian burden on the Syrian people.  Canada was concerned about reports that the Syrian Government had brutally massacred its own people, including the systematic use of rape as a means of repression, and the impact of violence on children, and Canada called on all parties to respect the rights of religious minorities. 

Romania expressed support for the extension of the mandate of the Commission and deplored that violence was still preferred over peace while civilians, including women and children, continued to fall as victims of the conflict.  Romania called for an immediate end to all hostilities and acts of violence and called on actors to identify a political solution.  Ensuring accountability was an essential step of this process and Romania reiterated its call to the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Australia condemned the ongoing brutality of the Syrian Government against its people, including the escalation of Scud missile attacks on civilian neighbourhoods. Reports of sexual violence against men and women in detention centres, and the abduction and rape of women and girls by Government forces and militias were particularly disturbing, as well as ongoing attacks against medical workers and facilities and the difficulties faced by the sick and wounded in accessing medical care.  Australia called on all parties to the conflict to respect international human rights and humanitarian law.

Tunisia reaffirmed its support for the extension of the mandate of the Commission.  Tunisia was concerned about reports of flagrant violations by Government forces against civilians in Syria.  Tunisia firmly condemned the massacres and violations.  Tunisia supported calls for necessary steps to be made to bring the perpetrators of these violations to justice and for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.  Tunisia called on the international community to increase assistance to neighbouring countries that had been receiving refugees. 

Ecuador was seriously concerned by the spiral of sectarian and religious violence that had broken out in Syria.  International law was the only mechanism to promote peaceful coexistence between nations.  Ecuador rejected any initiative that would aim for foreign intervention into the internal affairs of States.  The report was biased against the Government and did not pay sufficient attention to the atrocities committed by armed groups, and failed to investigate the transfer of weapons from other States.  Ecuador was also concerned by the number of refugees that had been created by the conflict. 

Paraguay urged the international community to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria, where the constant violation of human rights was a matter of deep concern.   It was worrying that both sides had carried out inhuman acts and that children under the age of 15 years were being used by the government forces and by anti-government militia.  Paraguay called on Syria to respect international human rights and humanitarian law, and said that there should be no impunity about crimes against humanity.  Paraguay also called on the Council to continue to look into this matter until all violations of human rights ceased.  

Netherlands said that it supported the extension of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry by one year.  It noted with concern that a systematic violation of human rights was carried out by all parties engaged in the conflict, and said that the International Criminal Court should deal with humanitarian crimes committed in Syria.  The violation of the rights of children and the fact that young boys remained at risk of being recruited were matters of deep concern.  The Netherlands urged the Syrian regime to stop targeting civilians and to protect all medical personnel working in the country.

Republic of Korea said that it paid special attention to the findings of the Commission of Inquiry that grave violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law had been committed by all parties involved in the Syrian conflict.  The Republic of Korea was deeply concerned about the worsening of the situation in Syria, where more than 70,000 persons had lost their lives, and about the radicalization and militarization of the conflict.  The parties involved should cease all forms of violence again civilians and bring the perpetrators of crimes to justice.   
     
Poland was appalled at the scale of ongoing atrocities and was deeply concerned that war crimes and crimes against humanity continued to be committed by both sides of the conflict.  Even children, the most vulnerable members of society, were not spared from the violence and pain, and Poland called for full humanitarian access.  Ensuring accountability for all violations of human rights was of utmost importance as without bringing those responsible to justice, no true reconciliation and recovery was possible.  The international community should speak with one voice.  Poland asked, in the opinion of the Commission, what additional measures could the international community take to foster a political solution for the escalating conflict in Syria.

Slovakia said that the rapid deterioration of the human rights situation in Syria was a matter of grave concern and represented the most pressing global crisis; its impact on children was alarming.  Slovakia called on all parties to cease immediately and unconditionally all hostilities as the only way to stop violence, resulting in widespread gross human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity; and the Commission played an irreplaceable role concerning the issue of accountability.  Humanitarian aid should be accorded unhindered access.  Slovakia asked the Commission what measures it would recommend to pursue as a matter of urgency to tackle this crisis.

Malaysia was saddened by the increasing number of Syrians that had fled their homes to neighbouring countries seeking shelter and protection.  Malaysia maintained a policy of non-interference in domestic affairs but would continue to support international efforts to call upon parties to immediately end the crisis through dialogue and negotiation.  Malaysia hoped that the Syrian Government and the newly-established opposition coalition would respect and safeguard human rights, and called upon the Government to give its fullest cooperation to expedite the process of a ceasefire.  Malaysia reiterated that it would not support any foreign military intervention and that a political solution was the only way forward. 

Belgium said there was a need to ensure and enlarge the humanitarian space in Syria based upon the principles of impartiality and neutrality.  Belgium remained deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Syria.  The authorities’ entrapment in the logic of blind and barbaric repression did not only complicate the search for a solution but also led to an escalation of the violence with disastrous consequences for the civilian population.  The Human Rights Council was once again left with no other option than to extend the mandate of the Commission. 
Slovenia said it regretted that the Syrian authorities had failed to protect its population and to ensure accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.  It was appalled by accounts of systematic violence in detention centres and as part of an attack on the civilian population by Government forces and affiliated militia.  Slovenia was also concerned by reports of the use of children in hostilities by both parties to the conflict, and by the impact that the situation had on the situation in neighbouring countries, with masses of Syrian people fleeing across the border. 

Kuwait said that it condemned the grave violations perpetrated by Syrian forces and affiliated militia, and underlined the importance of holding to account those responsible for violations.  Kuwait looked forward to a serious stance by the international community to put an end to this conflict in a way that would ensure stability and security for the people of Syria.  Kuwait underlined its support for the work of the Commission of Inquiry despite the difficulties encountered, as well as efforts made by Joint Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.   

Thailand said that Thailand was seriously concerned about the findings of the Commission of Inquiry, which recorded a deterioration of the human rights situation in Syria and a radicalization of the conflict.  Thailand condemned all forms of violence committed by all parties, especially indiscriminate attacks and violence against women and children.  The accountability of all those responsible for violations and abuses of international law should be ensured.  Thailand said that the best solution lay in an inclusive and meaningful political dialogue among all parties to resume the ceasefire negotiations and peace talks.   

Mexico said that the situation in Syria continued to deteriorate rapidly, which, in addition to the increasing number of displaced persons and refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, would have devastating consequences for the country.  An immediate suspension of the armed violence in Syria was necessary.  Mexico attached special importance to the reported violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law, which should be tried by competent judicial bodies, including international judicial bodies. 

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea expressed concern about the aggravation of the situation in Syria by terrorist acts carried out by rebel groups who received assistance from outside forces.  Human rights issues must be resolved through dialogue and cooperation, without unilateral selective condemnation based on political motives.  Any attempt to interfere in internal affairs should not be justified, as it was in flagrant breach of international law.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that an immediate end should be put to politicization, selectivity and double standards in the field of human rights.  

Angola remained concerned by the deterioration of the humanitarian and human rights situation in Syria.  Angola reiterated its appeal to all parties to immediately cease all grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and invited all actors to immediately engage in negotiations with a view to a political solution and a peaceful political transition in respect of the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.  Angola appealed to the international community to work for a peaceful resolution of the crisis through diplomatic means.  Angola welcomed the efforts of Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and the positive results of the conference of donors and the humanitarian situation in Syria held in Kuwait on 30 January. 

Libya said that the report reflected the grave human rights violations to which civilians in Syria were being exposed.  Libya supported all efforts by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the League of Arab States so that the United Nations Security Council would take measures aimed at halting the bloodshed.  Libya hoped that the Joint Special Envoy would continue with his efforts to urge all parties to find an acceptable solution.  Despite all efforts made by the international community, the Syrian people continued to suffer from violations and sought safety in neighbouring countries.  Libya called on the international community to work to put an immediate end to violence and respect the objectives and aspirations of the Syrian people.

Botswana said that the tragedy that the people of Syria continued to suffer could not be allowed to continue, particularly at the hands of those with a duty and obligation to defend and protect them.  The Commission had outlined the alarming situation of a degeneration of the repression and abuse of human rights and humanitarian law in Syria, in particular, the harrowing experiences of victims.  Botswana called for an immediate end to the atrocious violence and indicated that the situation must be viewed not as a Syrian issue but one with an international dimension; and lent full support to efforts to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, including the request made by the High Commissioner to the Security Council.

Press Emblem Campaign said that according to the Media Freedom Committee of the Syrian Journalists Association, a total of 29 professional and non-professional media workers had been killed in 2013, and to date at least four foreign journalists were arbitrarily detained or missing.  In the absence of any images of those atrocities it was very difficult to mobilize public opinion in order to stop the massacres.  What measures were being taken by various parties to the conflict to protect media workers?

International Commission of Jurists called once again on the Human Rights Council to request the Security Council to refer the situation of Syria to the International Criminal Court and as a matter urgency take other effective measures at its disposal to protect civilians, including refugees and others fleeing the conflict in neighbouring countries, and to address the humanitarian situation across Syria.  The Council had to demand a robust and united action on the part of the Security Council with a view to ending breaches of international law committed in the conflict.

International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists said that among the victims in Syria were women, children and elderly people.  The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists abhorred the illegal involvement of children in the hostilities.  Both sides had chosen to shield and shelter military objects and operations in civilian areas despite the consequent danger to the civilian population.  The Association urged the Council, its Member States, and the international community to act swiftly and immediately to bring an end to the international crimes committed in Syria.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies welcomed the report of the Commission of Inquiry, particularly references to the need for the International Criminal Court to be activated by the Security Council.  The rapid militarization of the conflict, including the increased emergence of extremist armed groups, was a matter of serious concern.  The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria was reaching catastrophic levels, and those involved in the conflict should be allowed access to cross-border aid.   

BADIL Resource Centre drew attention to the plight of Palestinian refugees living in Syria, and said that 400,000 Palestinian refugees were now in urgent need of assistance.  The instability in Syria and the deterioration of the security situation necessitated taking all practical measures to protect the Palestinian refugees and to prevent a new wave of forced displacement.  All States should increase their financial and humanitarian support for refugees fleeing Syria without discrimination. 

Amnesty International said that serious crimes continued to be committed in Syria with impunity, including the abduction, torture and summary killings of civilians by government forces and State-armed militias.  Thousands of refugees sought safety in neighbouring countries every day, placing considerable strain on the resources of those countries.  Amnesty International urged the Council to call on Syria’s neighbouring countries to keep their borders fully open to refugees fleeing Syria.  

Concluding Remarks

PAULO PINHEIRO, Chairperson of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said that the Commission found itself in a surreal situation: while delegations had asked the Commission to check facts on the ground, this was not possible if access was not granted by the Syrian Government.  The Commission had not received information from the Syrian National Commission and did not even have access to the Syrian Permanent Representative.  The Commission did not make any difference with regards to the crimes committed and was not taking sides.  It work was victim-oriented and this served as the point of reference for the investigation.  The Commission would continue to ask the Syrian Government for access but appealed to human rights organizations and civil society on the ground to continue to monitor the situation and provide information. 

Accountability lay at the core of its mandate and the Commission did not have to choose between a political transition and accountability, that was not its role.  If the Government had not shown the willingness or ability to provide accountability for violations, in the absence of national measures, it was incumbent upon the international community and the Security Council to take measures to ensure accountability.  The Commission was not a tribunal and this was clear in the report that suggested that the situation be referred to international justice mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court.  The Commission had highlighted violations against children and was working closely with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children in armed conflict on this issue. 

Concerning radicalisation, the Commission insisted that States should promote a negotiated solution and that they should stop supplying arms to parties to the conflict.  In relation to the impunity gap, the Commission was documenting violations and this information could be used by a number of justice mechanisms, national or international.  It was very important that the Council continued to support the fight against impunity and the work of the Commission, including through the provision of adequate resources and access.  The Commission was the actor currently carrying out this task and, should its mandate not be extended, there would be no other actor fulfilling this task.  The recruitment and training of children constituted an unlawful act under international criminal law.  Finally, Mr. Pinheiro thanked all Member States who had expressed appreciation for the work of the Commission.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC13/027E