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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON SYRIA
4 June 2013

The Human Rights Council at a midday meeting today held an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

Paulo Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, presenting the updated report, said that the war in Syria was a major catastrophe and was testing the resolve of the international community.  The parties to the conflict conducted hostilities in a manner which violated the laws of war, and the spread of the conflict to Syria’s neighbours had destabilized the entire region.  Government forces murdered, tortured, intimidated and punished those perceived to harbour opposition loyalties, and pro-Government forces had systematically employed sieges across the country, trapping civilians by controlling the supply of food, water, medicine and electricity.  Anti-Government armed groups preyed upon civilians, taking hostages for ransom, and armed groups continued to position themselves in villages and towns, which endangered civilians.  Both sides were using dangerous rhetoric which further inflamed existing sectarian tensions.

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, condemned the delay in the release of the report.  The Commission of Inquiry, despite being warned, used sectarian language and had exaggerated certain aspects of the situation in Syria.  The Commission totally neglected and disregarded atrocities being carried out by terrorists in Syria and a list of these was given.  The whole world saw a serious slip by the Commission when its member Ms. Del Ponte said that sarin gas had been used in the conflict.  The Chairman had to backtrack not long after and this pathetic drama had compromised the Commission’s neutrality and ability to carry out a competent investigation into the real situation in Syria.  Syria called upon Turkey and Qatar to be included in the list of States that were funding terrorism in Syria.  The international community must not pander to these States if it wanted to help resolve the conflict.

In the discussion that followed, speakers expressed grave concerns about the escalating situation in Syria, with violations that could amount to war crimes committed by both parties, and the disproportionate use of force in residential areas.  The situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court.  Speakers were also gravely concerned about the possible consequences for peace and stability in the region, and about the element of interventions of regional non-state actors in the conflict.  The alleged use of chemical weapons was also of concern and had to be investigated.  The importance of cross-border humanitarian assistance was also emphasised.  Both parties were urged to ensure the protection of civilians and to end all violence.  The continued transfer of arms would hinder efforts towards a political solution and would have harmful consequences for the civilian population.  

Speaking in the discussion were Denmark on behalf of the Nordic States, Turkey, Maldives, European Union, Russia, Qatar, United States, Italy, Argentina, Switzerland, Chile, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Cuba, Indonesia, Brazil, Botswana, Venezuela, France, Thailand, Tunisia, Jordan, Canada, Japan, Egypt, Netherlands, Czech Republic, China, Malaysia, Slovakia, Poland, Iran, Australia, Kuwait, Morocco, Mexico, Ecuador, Montenegro, Spain, Austria, Estonia, Romania, Nigeria, Costa Rica, United Nations Children’s Fund, Libya, Portugal, Belgium, Uruguay, Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, Peru and the Republic of Korea.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Press Emblem Campaign, Defence for Children International, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Union of Arab Jurists, and Human Rights Watch.

The Human Rights Council at 3 p.m. this afternoon will hear the reports of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea. 

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/23/58).

Introduction of the Report

PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, presenting the report, said that the war in Syria was a major catastrophe that was testing the international community’s resolve.  The parties to the conflict were conducting hostilities in a manner which violated the laws of war, and the spread of the conflict to Syria’s neighbours had destabilized the entire region.  Government forces murdered, tortured, intimidated and punished those perceived to harbour opposition loyalties, and pro-Government forces had systematically employed sieges across the country, trapping civilians by controlling the supply of food, water, medicine and electricity.  Anti-Government armed groups preyed upon civilians, taking hostages for ransom, and armed groups continued to position themselves in villages and towns, which endangered civilians.  Certain armed groups had used public show trials and executions to assert their authority, forgetting that everyone had the right to a fair trial by an independent and impartial tribunal.  Anti-Government armed groups were using child soldiers under the age of 15, which was a war crime.
 
Syria’s world heritage sites were being destroyed, and no party to the conflict was abiding by their obligation to respect cultural property.  Moreover, both sides were using dangerous rhetoric which further inflamed existing sectarian tensions.  Mr. Pinheiro said that crimes which shocked the conscience had become a daily reality in Syria, which, he stressed needed a diplomatic surge.  States should exert influence over the parties to the conflict to compel them to protect civilians.  As the battle of Al Qusayr raged on, all civilians must be allowed safe passage away from the conflict zone.  States must bear in mind that transfers of arms and ammunition should not occur when there was a clear risk that those arms would be used to commit serious violations of international law.  Mr. Pinheiro concluded by saying that inclusive dialogue was the only way to find a political settlement to the conflict which represented Syria’s cultural mosaic, and called upon Member States of the Council to ensure that those were the terms which ended the war in Syria.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, condemned the delay in the release of the report.  The Commission of Inquiry, despite being warned, used sectarian language and had exaggerated certain aspects of the situation in Syria.  The Commission totally neglected and disregarded atrocities being carried out by terrorists in Syria and a list of these was given.  The whole world saw a serious slip by the Commission when its member Ms. Del Ponte said that sarin gas had been used in the conflict.  The Chairman had to backtrack not long after and this pathetic drama had compromised the Commission’s neutrality and ability to carry out a competent investigation into the true situation in Syria.  Syria called upon Turkey and Qatar to be included in the list of States that were funding terrorism in Syria.  The international community must not pander to these States if it wanted to help resolve the conflict.

Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry

Denmark, speaking on behalf of the Nordic States, commended the Commission of Inquiry for its important work and urged the Syrian authorities to grant it access to the country.  The Nordic States were extremely concerned about the disproportionate use of force, especially in residential areas.  The recent shelling in Al Qusayr was only the latest testimony of the disregard by the authorities of the civilians trapped in the conflict.  The opposition had also committed war crimes and abuses.  The Nordic States condemned all human rights violations committed by both sides.

Turkey said that the violence in Syria had kept escalating and new elements adding to the nightmare were constantly appearing and were multiplying.  Turkey was appalled that a total of 17 massacres in a period of four months had been perpetrated, and decried the lack of efforts of the international community to address this situation.  Turkey reiterated the importance of cross border humanitarian assistance.  The international community must not shy away from its responsibility to stop the escalation of violence. 

Maldives said that it remained deeply concerned by the regional dimensions that had been shaping the conflict in recent months, with unthinkable consequences for the peace and stability of the entire region.  Interventions by regional non-state actors undermined international efforts to reach a political settlement and threatened the sovereignty of neighbouring countries.  The situation was serious and had to be referred to the International Criminal Court.  There could be no lasting peace or reconciliation without comprehensively addressing the issue of accountability.

European Union said that it was appalled by the escalating violence and the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights in Syria.  It also expressed concern about the involvement of extremist and foreign non-state actors in the fighting and the possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict.  The European Union condemned the serious human rights abuses and war crimes being committed in Syria, and reaffirmed that there should be no impunity for any such violations.  A political solution to the crisis was urgently needed.

Russian Federation said that it did not support the Council resolution on the International Commission of Inquiry.  It drew attention to the crimes carried out by opposition armed groups as mentioned in the report and said that some of the statements in the report were far from impartial.  For example, the report failed to mention the devastating impact of the ongoing embargo on Syria in terms of the humanitarian situation in the country, and asked the Commission to show greater objectivity and impartiality.       

Qatar said that the Syrian forces were implementing a long-range strategy against the Syrian people by depriving them of food and medicines and by forcefully displacing them.  The Syrian regime was primarily responsible for the tragic humanitarian situation in the country.  It was disconcerting that war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by pro-Government militias were increasing.  As Syria did not allow the members of the Commission of Inquiry to enter the country, how could expert groups carry out their investigation work?   

United States said it applauded the Commission’s tenacity in recording abuses in Syria despite it not having access to the country.  The United States was supporting the accountability process that had to take place with support of civil society groups.  The United States condemned the Assad regime and other armed parties for the ongoing conflict.  The bloodshed had to end.  What reports of Hezbollah activity at Al Qusayr had the Commission received?

Italy said it was utterly dismayed with the escalation of violence in Syria which might encompass war crimes; the perpetrators of crimes had to be made accountable.  The unimpeded passage of humanitarian actors was urged.  After two years of bloodshed it was clear that only a diplomatic solution to the conflict was likely to succeed.

Argentina said the Commission’s report indicated an increasing militarization of the conflict, and it agreed that only an inclusive diplomatic process could resolve it.  The opposition in Syria was clearly in a defensive posture, hence their favouring of a continued armed conflict, but only diplomacy could solve the crisis.

Switzerland firmly condemned all of the violence and the serious abuses of human rights as well as violations of international humanitarian law in Syria.  Allegations of use of chemical weapons were particularly worrying.  The fight against impunity was an essential condition for lasting peace in Syria.  Parties had to do their utmost to protect the civilian population.

Chile said that it was clear that the Government forces in Syria were responsible for human rights violations and there was also a need to repudiate human rights abuses by the opposition.  Chile was concerned that the cycle of violence may have serious consequences for the region and it was urgent to create conditions to achieve peace.  Chile stressed the value of the recommendation of implementing a total weapons embargo. 

Germany said that the abhorrent violations of human rights in Syria were proof that the Government in Damascus was no longer able to protect its own people.  If Damascus really supported an investigation into atrocities it should, without any restrictions, allow the Commission of Inquiry access to the country.  Germany was concerned about the intervention of foreign elements in the conflict. 

United Arab Emirates said the Commission on Inquiry’s report was exhaustive and documented a range of abuses for the first time.  The United Arab Emirates deplored the refusal of Syria to listen to the international community, including the voice of the Arab world, to cease the conflict.  The United Arab Emirates called for unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance into Syria.

Saudi Arabia said the Commission’s report contained important information about crimes against humanity being carried out on a daily basis in Syria and to what extent the catastrophe was escalating.  The Commission’s efforts to monitor and record events in Syria was important for accountability, particularly in the face of a lack of concerted international so far to put a stop to the war.

United Kingdom said it had signed the Swiss letter calling for a referral of the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court.  According to the Commission’s report, abuses committed by the opposition in Syria did not reach the scale of those committed by Syrian Government forces but the United Kingdom condemned all violence from wherever it came.  The call for another Geneva conference by delegates was well-noted.  Unfettered access by humanitarian agencies would be an important step.

Cuba said that the call for a change in regime and use of force in Syria instead of dialogue was particularly alarming.  Cuba condemned the deaths of innocent persons wherever they occurred and said that an end had to be put to the violent massacres and terrorist acts that took innocent lives.  The transfer of weapons and funds to insurgent groups also had to come to an end.  Cuba reaffirmed its rejection of the undermining of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. 

Indonesia said that it shared the observation that the desperation of parties to the conflict in Syria had resulted in a new level of cruelty and brutality based on the availability of weapons.  Increased arms transfer would only harm the prospect of a political solution.  Any political negotiation had to be inclusive.  It was hoped that the upcoming peace talks in Geneva would be first step towards agreeing to bring the violence to an end.

Brazil said that the Commission of Inquiry again urged the international community to commit itself to move towards a lasting political solution to the situation in Syria.  Brazil reiterated its unequivocal condemnation of all violence and called on all parties, most particularly the Syrian Government, to immediately put an end to violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.  Brazil fully concurred that increased arms transfer hurt the prospect of a political solution. 

Botswana said that there was a clear danger implied by the Commission of the Syrian conflict spreading throughout the region.  Additionally there was evidence that the involvement of extremists meant the conflict was becoming embroiled in the global jihadist cause.  Botswana supported the Geneva process; it was troubled by the possibility that chemical weapons may have been used and called for further investigations by United Nations mechanisms.

Venezuela said the lack of balance shown by the Commission was obvious in statements by Ms. Del Ponte; there were States funding the armed overthrow of the Government of Syria against all international norms.  Venezuela supported peace talks but rejected any external military attempts to resolve the conflict, as had been seen in Iraq, Libya and other examples.  It supported the United Nations system but rejected the mechanisms that were bent on a biased presentation of the situation.

France said that the report of the Commission of Inquiry was damning; violence in Syria was becoming unimaginably brutal; sexual violence, perhaps chemical weapons, were being used.  The Damascus regime appeared to be massacring its citizens on an unprecedented scale by any means necessary.  France supported the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Thailand called on all parties to bring violence to an immediate halt and to support the call for parties to respect human rights and international humanitarian law.  Thailand also supported the call to end the transfer of arms.  The Government should allow the Commission of Inquiry to conduct investigations.  Safe and unhindered humanitarian access had to be guaranteed and the funding for this assistance had to be maintained.

Tunisia called upon all parties to facilitate free and unfettered entry into the country for the Commission of Inquiry.  Tunisia was deeply concerned about the increased number of violations of human rights and crimes against humanity.  Tunisia strongly condemned all violations and abuses perpetrated by all sides.  It called on all international parties to deploy every effort to reach a political settlement.  Tunisia continued to be concerned vis-à-vis the continued deterioration of humanitarian assistance and appreciated the efforts of neighbouring countries. 

Jordan said that the report showed a consistent deterioration of the human rights situation in Syria, which was deplorable and deeply painful.  Jordan was convinced of the necessity of a comprehensive and urgent transitional political solution in order to put an end to the bloodshed.  It called for the holding of Geneva Conference Two in order to reach this transition in a peaceful manner and to avoid any foreign intervention that would render the situation even more complex.

Canada strongly condemned the Assad regime for its continued perpetration of violence against its own people.  The targeting of hospitals and civilians, and the use of rape as a weapon, were strongly condemned.  In the Commission’s view, what was the best way to end the violence and ensure a lasting peace in Syria?

Japan regretted the inability of the Commission to visit Syria and called for it to be allowed to do so.  Japan strongly condemned the violence in Syria, particularly the plight of civilians, women and children.  Japan expected the Commission of Inquiry to hold accountable those guilty of crimes, and it supported the Geneva II process.

Egypt followed with great concern the growing violence in Syria and was worried about the humanitarian catastrophe that it was leading to.  It seemed all possible “red lines” had long been crossed and an immediate end to the conflict had to be found.  Egypt supported the diplomatic efforts of Russia and the United States toward peace.

Netherlands said that the Syrian crisis had the potential to undermine stability in the whole region and it was deeply concerned about this situation of an ever increasing brutality, sectarian violence, and the alleged use of chemical weapons.  Perpetrators should be held accountable and the situation warranted referral to the International Criminal Court.  A humanitarian disaster was unfolding and the international community was called upon to deliver assistance.  A political solution towards a new Syria was the only way out of this crisis.

Czech Republic said that Syria was being torn apart and its rich cultural heritage was being destroyed.  The Czech Republic was seriously concerned that the conflict had become not only extremely violent but also included a deep sectarian content.  Over the past month gross human rights violations had grown in number, scale and cruelty and it strongly condemned these widespread and systematic violations.  The Czech Republic repeated its call for a possible referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court. 

China said that it was deeply concerned over the continued worsening of the situation in Syria that had caused heavy casualties.  China opposed and condemned all acts of violence against innocent civilians.  Military means could not solve the issue but would rather lead to more conflict and bloodshed.  China had maintained that a political solution was the only realistic way out of this crisis and it welcomed all efforts that were conducive to this.  The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria should be respected.

Malaysia encouraged the Syrian Government to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry.  The targeting of hospitals and civilians was to be condemned, and the blockade on humanitarian workers had to be lifted.  The possibility of chemical weapons-use was alarming and Malaysia called for a diplomatic solution to the violence.

Slovakia said the Commission had for the last two years recorded an ever-increasing litany of atrocities which would not be forgotten in Syria for many generations; the crisis had to end immediately.  All parties must allow the unhindered access of humanitarian actors; war crimes and crimes against humanity must not go unpunished.

Poland regretted the non-cooperation of the Syrian authorities and was deeply concerned about the deadly and spreading disaster.  Lack of access by humanitarian agencies made a dire situation tragic.  Poland agreed that the Syrian situation had to be referred to the International Criminal Court.  Poland hoped that the Commission’s work would lead to those that had committed abuses to be held accountable.

Iran shared the call for the international community to support the peace process in Syria.  It was urgent to de-escalate the conflict and curtail the flow of arms to put an end to a situation that did not have a military solution.  Iran had provided food and medicines to Syria to enhance the livelihood of the Syrian people and put forth a plan for the resolution of the conflict.  An international conference was held in Tehran on 29 May this year, under the banner of political solution and regional stability.

Australia said that the latest report by the Commission of Inquiry provided stark evidence that this conflict had reached new levels of brutality.  While it condemned violence on all sides, Australia noted that abuses by anti-government forces did not reach that of government forces and military.  It reiterated its demand for all parties to ensure access to and protection of medical workers, facilities and essential supplies. 

Kuwait said that it strongly condemned the gross and systematic human rights violations documented in the report that were being committed by the Syrian Government.  The Syrian authorities continued to disregard the lives and blood of its own citizens.  The situation in Al Qusayr violated all relevant international instruments and Kuwait recalled resolutions of the Council that stipulated the full accountability of all perpetrators of violence against civilians and bringing them to justice under international law.  

Morocco said that the situation in Syria was tragic and was getting worse every day.  In addition to the ongoing massacres and brutality against the civilian population there were other grave violations of human rights occurring, such as violations of the rights of innocent children.  All persons responsible for those violations should be held accountable.  The policy of starving the population and depriving it of water was unacceptable.  The international community must find an immediate political solution to the crisis.   

Mexico said that the report stressed the urgent need for the international community to take on its responsibility in addressing the crisis in Syria, where a flagrant violation of human rights was taking place.  War crimes must be documented, sentenced and punished.  Mexico stressed that all actors in the conflict, including foreign combatants, had obligations under international humanitarian law, including allowing humanitarian aid to reach the population affected by the conflict.

Ecuador said it was concerned about the sectarian violence occurring in the conflict, and pointed out that acts committed by the anti-Government forces had not been objectively documented.  The human rights violations against vulnerable persons and the widespread sexual violence in Syria were major concerns.  Referring to the provision of arms to the Syrian rebels, Ecuador said that double standards were being applied.  Ecuador requested an objective investigation into the deployment of mercenaries in Syria.

Montenegro called on the Syrian Government to address the bureaucratic and operational obstacles that humanitarian workers faced in attempting to aid civilians in Syria and urged it to cooperate with all humanitarian organizations.  Accounts related to the use of chemical weapons were also extremely worrisome.  Montenegro reiterated its support for a political solution to the problem and supported the immediate promotion of a plan of action for post-conflict reconstruction and transitional justice.

Spain said that there was a need to seek an urgent negotiated political solution.  The Council must demand that the Syrian Government ensure unfettered access of the Commission of Inquiry to the country and allow the provision of humanitarian aid.  As regarded the indications by the Commission on the use of chemical weapons, it was necessary to clarify this.  The infringement of human rights by the Government and to a lesser degree the opposition was perhaps the most alarming aspect of the conflict.

Austria said that it regretted that the Syrian Government still had not collaborated with the Commission of Inquiry.  Austria demanded access for humanitarian assistance, condemned all war crimes and human rights violations committed in Syria, and called upon all parties to the conflict to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.  All those responsible for international crimes and human rights abuses had to be held accountable.  It was time to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Estonia urged Syria to grant access to the Commission of Inquiry and regretted that civilians continued to be massacred.  An immediate end to repression and violence was needed.  The report of the Commission indicated that war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations were being systematically committed in Syria.  The international community should support countries hosting refugees. 

Costa Rica said the report outlined a set of inacceptable human rights violations committed both by the Government and opposition forces; perpetrators must be held accountable.  It was high time for those in charge of international security and peace within the United Nations to leave aside political interests and to work to protect the life and integrity of civilians.  It was timely that the Security Council had called for an informal meeting with the Commission of Inquiry.  Costa Rica called for a weapons embargo and for Syria to provide access to the Commission of Inquiry.

Nigeria deeply regretted the continuous loss of life and noted with concern the humanitarian dimension of this crisis.  Nigeria condemned all human rights violations.  Nigeria did not see a military solution to this crisis and, therefore, urged all concerned to come to the talks without preconditions.  The Syrian people had suffered enough and it was time to put an end to this crisis.  Nigeria wished to see a peaceful, prosperous, united and democratic Syria, and called on its Government to cooperate with the Commission.

Romania said that accounts included in the Commission’s horrific report showed that civilians had become victims of terrible crimes.  Romania condemned the systematic imposition of sieges, the use of chemical agents, and the forced displacement of civilians; it supported efforts by the international community to provide assistance both to refugees and to the host countries.  Parties to the conflict should grant full and unimpeded access to humanitarian organizations.   

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund said that Syrian children made up half of the internally displaced persons and refugees now in neighbouring countries.  Countless children had been victims of grave violations and had witnessed events which caused them great emotional distress.  The impact of the crisis on the education system in Syria had also been severe.  All parties to the conflict should comply with their obligations to respect the sanctity of children’s lives. 
Libya said that it remained deeply concerned about the exacerbation of the situation in Syria, where grave violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law were occurring on a daily basis.  Civilians and especially children were being subjected to serious crimes.  Libya reaffirmed its solidarity to the people of Syria and called on the Council to take courageous action in order to put an end to the crisis, which posed a threat to regional and international peace and security. 

Portugal called on Syria to allow the Commission of Inquiry immediate, full and unrestricted access to the country.  It was concerned by the widespread and systematic violations taking place in Syria and the involvement of foreign non-State actors.  Although abuses committed by anti-government groups did not reach the same level as that of the Government, Portugal strongly believed that those responsible for such acts had to be held accountable.

Belgium remained deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria.  The continued deliberate targeting of medical personnel and hospitals and the denial of medical access were particularly disconcerting.  Belgium was also appalled by the continuing violations of children’s and women’s rights, in particular the fact that sexual violence had been a persistent feature of the conflict.  All parties should allow immediate and full humanitarian access by organizations to all areas of the conflict

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that human rights should not be abused for political purposes.  Politically motivated one-sided accusations and denunciations were not conducive to the promotion of genuine human rights but would only ferment internal strife.  Any attempt to interfere in internal affairs and to bring unacceptable pressure could not be justified as it constituted a flagrant breach of the purposes of the United Nations Charter and the principle of respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Member States. 

Peru said that while its position had been expressed during the emergency meeting on Syria, after listening to the presentation by the Chairperson of the Commission, Peru wished to stress that the Council had not been sufficiently clear in its condemnation of abuses and violations and crimes committed by opposition groups; furthermore, the Council had not sufficiently addressed the intervention of third countries in the crisis, including those providing weapons to the parties to conflict.  Should the Council continue to ignore these facts it would undermine its credibility.

Republic of Korea noted that violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law had been committed by all parties; and shared the concern put forward by the Commission that there were reasonable grounds to believe that toxic chemical agents had been used as weapons.  The Republic of Korea emphasised that any use of such weapons could not be justified under any circumstances; and called on all parties to immediately cease all forms of violence and human rights abuses against innocent civilians, and bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice.

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, in a joint statement, expected the Geneva process to be renewed and to bring a resolution to the crisis in Syria.  The League demanded the participation of women in any process.  Syrian people had been forced to flee and women had taken the responsibility for undertaking humanitarian relief and had been a voice calling for peace and reconciliation.  A civil society movement was fundamental for the future.

Press Emblem Campaign said that several dozen media workers had lost their lives since the beginning of the conflict in Syria.  Dozens of other journalists had been detained by the Syrian police and should be released immediately.  The Commission of Inquiry should investigate the kidnapping and disappearance of media workers.     

Defence for Children International said that children were a vulnerable group whose rights were being violated both by Government troops and by anti-Government militias in Syria.  Children were being separated from their families, while some were recruited as soldiers and forced to get involved in the hostilities.

International Fellowship of Reconciliation said that there were few signs of hope on the ground in Syria.  Conscription into the Syrian army was continuing and there were no provisions to conscientious objection.  The only option was to leave the country.  All Syrian deserters were in need of urgent protection from torture, punishment and execution.  
 
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that for more than two years the Syrian Government had used excessive force against its citizens in acts that amounted to war crimes.  The use of systemic violence had fostered an atmosphere in which sexual crimes against women had been perpetrated.  The Council was urged to avoid becoming politicized.

Union of Arab Jurists said that a military solution to the crisis would be impossible and it welcomed the Commission’s advocacy for a political outcome.  However the Commission was biased in its methodology and did not take into account the differing actors at large in Syria, and underestimated the presence of jihadist and Al Qaida terrorists who were pouring into the country to overthrow the Government.

Human Rights Watch said civilians were at great risk in Al Qusayr.  Human Rights Watch had documented repeated human rights violations such as unfounded detentions, the use of cluster bombs and more.  The situation had to be referred to the International Criminal Court and the Commission had to have unimpeded access to Syria.

Concluding Remarks

PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said the Commission had worked very hard to be objective but the blame on not visiting Syria could not be placed on the Commission but the lack of access provided by Syria.  The Commission was concerned about the kidnapping of bishops and clerics and the mutilation, as well as the kidnapping of peacekeepers.   Interviews with victims had taken place, but the Commission had to ensure the anonymity of its sources.  Member States could provide additional information concerning violations and perpetrators.  The Commission was bound by facts, credible information that had been corroborated.  Concerning access to Syria, the Commission would continue to request the Government of Syria to give it an invitation.  The Commission was ready to refer information to any judicial authority that would protect the right to due process.  The sectarian aspect of the conflict was becoming more pronounced and the report thus condemned this.  It had not been possible to determine the use of chemical weapons but the Commission would continue to investigate allegations, including some attacks committed more recently.  Should the Commission acquire reasonable grounds to believe that the use of chemical weapons had taken place, information concerning these incidents would be shared.  Finally, Mr. Pinheiro thanked non-governmental organizations for their contribution during the elaboration of the report, especially for their reports on behalf of victims, and said that the next report would deal with the very serious killings of journalists and stress how conflict affected media workers.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC13/070E