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

19 September 2016

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. 

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry, presenting the Commission’s latest report, said that while a “glimmer of hope” had been created by the recent cessation of hostilities brokered by the United States and the Russian Federation, he warned that a similar pact had faded all too quickly, with all parties returning to the battlefield and resorting to tactics that directly targeted and impacted civilians.  Sieges continued to be used as a tactic of war; confined populations were bombed and starved until they surrendered.  The new cessation of hostilities was an opportunity for all parties to show that they were genuinely committed to protecting the people they claimed they were fighting for.

Syria speaking as the concerned country, said that this past Saturday the planes of the American alliance had attacked Syrian positions, leading to many casualties, and this had facilitated Daesh’s control of its position.  This was also evidence that the Alliance established by the United States, under the excuse of fighting Daesh, was in fact colluding with this group.  This was the latest in a series of attacks by the United States and its allies which had led to millions of dollars in damage.  Those attacks, or other attacks supported by France and Turkey, had not been mentioned in the Commission of Inquiry’s report.  The report also had not mentioned that several other States had transferred arms to the parties in Syria valued at €1.2 billion. 

During the ensuing discussion, delegations expressed support for the Commission of Inquiry’s mandate and work, and roundly condemned its lack of access to Syria.  Many speakers urged the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  The plight of civilians under siege was noted by several delegations; others addressed the situation facing Syrian refugees as they fled the country, encountering obstacles in countries of transit and destination.  A number of speakers said that the Commission’s report lacked objectivity and that a report on crimes committed by Jabhat Al-Nussra and other jihadists was needed more than ever.  They said that dishonest attempts of utilising the Council for political goals must stop.


Speaking in the discussion were the European Union, Denmark on behalf of the Nordic Countries, Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Germany, Israel, Maldives, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Ecuador,  Mexico, Japan, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Albania, Russian Federation, Greece, Chile, Spain, Liechtenstein, Algeria, Venezuela, Slovenia, Netherlands, Morocco, United States, Egypt, Kuwait, China, Turkey, Estonia, Switzerland, Belgium, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Botswana, Iraq, New Zealand, United Kingdom,  Italy, Tunisia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sovereign Order of Malta, Bahrain, Luxembourg, Latvia, Romania, Republic of Korea, Belarus, Portugal, Ghana, Iran and Jordan.

The following civil society organizations also spoke: Union of Arab Jurists, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, United Nations Watch, World Jewish Congress, World Council of Arameans, Amnesty International and Arab Commission for Human Rights.

The Human Rights Council has a full day of meetings today, and following the conclusion of its interactive debate, it will begin its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic A/HRC/33/55

It also has before it a Note verbale dated July 7 / July 2016, from the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva addressed to the President of the Human Rights Council A/HRC/33/G/1

Presentation by the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria

PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, said that six years into the Syrian conflict and five years into the Commission’s work, the Commission’s ability to access information sources was as critical as ever.  As Syrian refugees had increasingly fled outside the region, it had become more difficult to access victims and witnesses with fresh information.  A “glimmer of hope” had been created by the recent cessation of hostilities brokered by the United States and the Russian Federation.  If the fragile process was to be sustained, the reduction of violence had to be accompanied by unimpeded, sustained and rapid humanitarian access to all those in need.  The politicization of humanitarian assistance by any party to the conflict could not be allowed.  Roadblocks made of red tape were just as effective as roadblocks made of weapons of war.  He warned that a similar pact to reduce violence had faded all too quickly, with all parties returning to the battlefield and resorting to tactics that directly targeted and impacted civilians.  Violence was further exacerbated by the continuing multiplication of fronts and an ever-growing number of external powers involved in the war. That Syria was the battleground for the interests of so many actors left civilians the primary victims of rampant war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The resurgence of violence that followed the breakdown of the February cessation of hostilities agreement was marked by the erasure of the health-care infrastructure in some parts of the country.  The situation in Aleppo was worsened by the cut-off of the last of only two access roads to the city which effectively amounted to the besiegement of 275,000 civilians.  Sieges continued to be used as a tactic of war; confined populations were bombed and starved until they surrendered.  Designated terrorist groups operating in Syria continued to use brutality to subjugate civilians under their control.  The so-called Islamic State continued to kidnap, torture and ruthlessly kill perceived enemies, including civilians and minorities.  The present opportunity came after five-and-a-half years of a conflict characterised by the complete disregard by all sides of fundamental human rights and international humanitarian law standards.  Children remained one of the groups most vulnerable to violations.  Teenage boys were recruited by belligerents to fight.  Many children ventured to leave the country on their own.  But instead of safety some found themselves being held abroad for weeks in unsanitary detention cells.  As a matter of urgency, the accommodation of children in shelters with adequate living space and conditions had to be prioritised.  The new cessation of hostilities laid the groundwork for all sides to abide by international law standards that protected the civilian population.  It was an opportunity for all parties to show that they were genuinely committed to protecting the people they claimed they were fighting for.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that this past Saturday the planes of the American alliance had attacked Syrian positions, leading to many casualties, and this had facilitated Daesh’s control of its position.  This was also evidence that the Alliance established by the United States, under the excuse of fighting Daesh, was in fact colluding with this group.  This was the latest in a series of attacks by the United States and its allies which had led to millions of dollars in damage.  Those attacks, or other attacks supported by France and Turkey, had not been mentioned in the Commission of Inquiry’s report.  The report also had not mentioned that several other States had transferred arms to the parties in Syria valued at €1.2 billion.  The Commission of Inquiry refused to deal with terrorism in Syria in the same way it was being dealt with in Belgium or Tunisia, and the presence of foreign terrorism fighters denied the claims that it was the Government of Syria which was responsible for the current events.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union remained seriously concerned by the human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, condemned the widespread and indiscriminate attacks by the Syrian regime against its own people, and called upon the United Nations Security Council to refer this situation to the International Criminal Court.  Denmark, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said that the attacks on schools must stop immediately and that those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be brought to justice.  The Nordic countries welcomed the cessation of hostilities and urged all parties to commit to the agreement and allow desperately needed humanitarian access to besieged areas of Syria.  The peace process must go hand in hand with justice. 

Saudi Arabia, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, noted that the Commission of Inquiry had shown in its reports that the violations against the Syrian people and the serious repercussions on women and civilians had made life almost impossible, and called for an immediate stop of attacks on schools as well as an immediate lifting of the regime’s siege in order to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.  Germany said that the recent agreement between Russia and the United States and the cessation of hostilities offered a glimpse of hope for the de-escalation of the crisis in Syria; it would now have to be fully implemented and respected by all parties, first and foremost by the Syrian regime.  The Syrian people could no longer bear the continuation of the armed conflict. 

Israel cautioned that the international community should remember that Syria would not return to become the same State as before, adding that those like “Iran and Hezbollah” who fomented war in Syria also had a stake in the Syrian tragedy.  Maldives welcomed the continuation of the discussion, noting that the reescalation of violence had been discouraging, and that it was the responsibility of the United Nations to protect civilians living in the midst of the attacks.  Qatar said that the Syrian regime could not be trusted to implement agreements, and that as humanitarian access was central to the agreement, the international community needed to work to achieve a political solution.   Saudi Arabia reaffirmed its support for the Commission of Inquiry’s mandate, and denounced the fact that the Commission had not been allowed access to Syrian territory to allow it to carry out its mandate, also adding that innocent Syrians were dying of hunger and lack of medicine. 

Poland was alarmed that Syrian children continued to be victims of grave violations of human rights by all warring parties, and that a growing number of children were being forced to join armed groups or work because of the widening poverty; this would lead to tearing apart of the fabric of the Syrian society for many years ahead.  Ecuador denounced the damage by the indiscriminate use of violence and condemned the attacks against schools, medical facilities and health staff, which must be thoroughly investigated in order to establish criminal responsibility, and expressed concern about reports of sexual violence and torture of women and men in detention. 

Mexico reiterated concern about the negative impact of the armed conflict in Syria on peace and stability in the region and was also concerned about the more than 6.6 million internally displaced persons and 4.6 million refugees, who must have access to basic services such as food, health, water and sanitation, and education.  Japan condemned the ongoing sieges imposed on several towns, including Aleppo, that had deprived large numbers of citizens of their freedom of movement, and the strategies leading to forced displacement in Darayya.  Japan would continue to provide and enhance humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people and for neighbouring countries which hosted large numbers of refugees.

Cuba said that the international community needed to work to find a solution to the critical situation in Syria, where the conflict had lasted more than five years, adding hopes that the recent agreement would pave the way to a solution to the conflict.  Czech Republic expressed concern at the systematic violations of medical impartiality in Syria by all parties, adding that blocking humanitarian access by any actor was a human rights violation and that those responsible for crimes against humanity had to be held accountable, with the United Nations Security Council urgently referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. 

France said that international human rights law and international humanitarian law continued to be massively denied in Syria, and with complete impunity.  The role of the Commission of Inquiry was essential to collecting and preserving evidence and establishing a list of those responsible, who had to be brought to justice; France would continue to ask the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.  Brazil said that the recent commitment announced by the Russian Federation and the United States deserved the unequivocal support of the international community, adding that Brazil fully supported the recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry that the international community needed to curb the proliferation and supply of weapons to the conflict and address the sources thereof. 

Australia said that the Commission’s report once again catalogued shocking and widespread violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law and stressed that all violations and abuses by government forces, their allies, terrorist organizations and other armed groups, including use of prohibited weapons, such as chemical weapons, persecution of minorities, illegal detention, torture and enforced disappearances, must end.  Canada reiterated the call on the United Nations Security Council to establish a mechanism to investigate reports of violations of international law by Daesh in Iraq and Syria and ensure accountability for all crimes perpetrated.  Canada asked about progress in addressing the issues of disappearances and arbitrary arrests, and in improving the situation of detainees. 

Albania noted that the civilian population was still living under constant fear for their lives and called upon all parties to stop the indiscriminate targeting and shelling of civilians.  Also, the numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons were increasing, while the living conditions in the camps were poor and people were under persistent threat of attacks and violence.  Russia said that the Commission’s report lacked objectivity and that a report on crimes committed by Jabhat Al-Nussra and other jihadists was needed more than ever.  The Commission should dedicate particular attention to the detrimental impact of unilateral coercive measures on the human rights of civilians in Syria.  Dishonest attempts of utilising the Council for political goals must stop.

Greece expressed deep concern at the spread of extremism, and noted the dramatically increased numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees going to Europe, mostly through Greece, also adding that this was not the first time in history that Greece welcomed refugees from the Middle East.  Chile condemned violations of international human rights law by all sides to the conflict, expressing hope that the recent agreement for a ceasefire allowing humanitarian access to all would lead to the reestablishment of the peace process.  Spain commended the work of the Commission of Inquiry, noting that Syria was experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis, and condemning the generalized violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all sides to the conflict.  Liechtenstein said that the response to the situation in Syria from the Security Council, General Assembly, and the Human Rights Council had been deeply disappointing and ineffective, adopting resolutions that had no effect; efforts underway to prosecute perpetrators under the principle of universal jurisdiction were encouraging.

Algeria supported the work on a political solution to the conflict in Syria and called upon all parties to ensure that the latest agreement between Russia and the United States was implemented.  The international community must support the inter-Syrian dialogue with the prospect of direct negotiations which would put an end to the crisis and preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and the cohesion of its people.  Venezuela said that without the re-establishment of the peace process, the bloody conflict fostered by the geopolitical interests of some powers would continue.  Venezuela reiterated its call to the community of nations to react with peace initiatives and in the spirit of solidarity, and extend a helping hand to the Government of Syria in fighting terrorists. 

Slovenia said that the plight of internally displaced persons and refugees needed an efficient response and called for improved cooperation on assistance and protection of persons on the move.  The end of impunity and ensuring accountability for violations of human rights in Syria were a prerequisite for finding a durable solution.  Slovenia called for the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.  Despite the cessation of hostilities in February, horrific human rights violations in Syria continued,  including the use of incendiary weapons and barrel bombs, said the Netherlands, and stressed that forced evacuations, including Darayya, were a violation of international humanitarian law.  Continuing the peace process was essential to end the Syrian conflict and the recent breakthrough achieved by the United States and Russia and the new cessation of hostilities were an important next step.

Remarks by the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria

PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry, answering questions from delegations, said that reports were prepared once data was finalized, and that they were not based on instructions from outside; that was why the Commission of Inquiry was impartial and independent.  Responding to the question of the representative from the Russian Federation, he said that the Commission of Inquiry had consistently reported on the Nusra Front.  In response to a question from Denmark on what the best way was to address the recruitment of children, he said that it was to end the war.  But in addition to that answer, he added that measures should be taken by all States of influence to stop the recruitment of children under the age of 18.   He turned to the question of Liechtenstein regarding universal jurisdiction for the prosecution of crimes, and noted that the Commission of Inquiry had received numerous requests from States prosecuting crimes.  Their requests for information had been fulfilled in almost all cases.  Based on national jurisdiction, there had been cases of successful prosecution that the Commission of Inquiry’s information had aided.  He noted that the current situation was less positive than after the entry into force of the February cessation of hostilities.  A 20-truck convoy bound for Aleppo had yet to cross into Syria from Turkey.  Regarding the Commission of Inquiry’s access to Syria, its work had long been assisted by access provided by countries in the region.  Now, what was needed was facilitated access by Member States in Europe where Syrian refugees were arriving.  Many States had stated that they would give access to victims; Mr. Pinheiro said “we humbly ask that” that access be given now.

Interactive Dialogue

Morocco expressed concern about the displacement and forced evacuation of some areas in Syria in the context of a campaign to change the demographic make-up of the country, and commended the efforts of neighbouring countries in hosting the refugees.  The only solution to the crisis was a comprehensive political solution in line with the Geneva Communiques and the Vienna Declaration.  United States reiterated the calls for the Syrian Government to cease its egregious abuses against prisoners, and welcomed the Commission’s views on how the issue of thousands of  missing persons could be addressed.  The courageous Syrian human rights defenders continued to document atrocities despite grave risks; the international community must hear directly from them and that was why the resolution on Syria would be calling for a high-level panel to allow for Syrian civil society to address the Council directly. 

Egypt was monitoring with concern the events in Syria and the suffering of the refugees in view of measures adopted by some countries to prevent their entry.  Egypt fully supported the peace process and the efforts of the Special Envoy and said that the effects of the activities of Daesh must be confronted.  Kuwait called for innovation in addressing the crisis and developing a new approach in assisting Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons by putting in place a programme which would allow them to rebuild their lives and their country. 

China said that a political solution to the Syrian issue was fundamental to protecting human rights in the country, welcoming the agreement by the Russian Federation and the United States, and noting that China had provided bilateral aid to help the people of Syria, and would work with the international community to move the humanitarian situation in Syria toward a positive outcome.  Turkey said that the allegations made by the Syrian representative were completely rejected, noting that the regime was targeting the population with bombings, even of camps for internally displaced persons.  The Syrian regime was responsibility for the use of chemical weapons, which was both a war crime and a crime against humanity; terror was the common enemy of the international community.

Estonia expressed regret at the total failure to protect civilians in Syria, noting that all parties to the conflict were responsible for ensuring that the rights of the civilian population were respected and protected.  The Syrian Government was urged to ratify and implement the Rome Statute.  Switzerland said that attacks against medical personnel suggested a deliberate strategy, noting that international humanitarian law gave special protection to medical missions as well as the ill and injured.  The Commission of Inquiry was asked to comment on what might be the most effective way of protecting medical missions.

Belgium said that the blockade of civilians and the use of starvation as weapons of war, as well as the indiscriminate and deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure, were unacceptable.  It was imperative that those responsible for those and all other crimes were brought to justice, and that immediate and unfettered access for humanitarian assistance was granted throughout the territory.  United Arab Emirates continued to be concerned about the deteriorating security situation, the breakdown in diplomatic initiatives and the absence of a foreseeable solution for the situation in Syria.  Also of concern was the deteriorating humanitarian situation in many besieged Syrian cities.  To date, the United Arab Emirates had provided more than $ 600 million as direct aid to Syria and more than $ 2 billion to neighbouring countries. 

Ireland said that the horrific crimes perpetuated against the civilians in Syria must not be tolerated and there could be no peace without accountability for the victims of the conflict.  Ireland welcomed the de-escalation of violence and stressed that ending all crimes, including lifting of all sieges and ending the denial of humanitarian relief, and the release of all political prisoners must form the basis for a meaningful peace process.  Botswana agreed with the Commission of Inquiry that the escalation of the conflict was also a result of the support provided to various parties and urged all States which were drawn into this conflict to immediately stop their support to all organizations deemed terrorist. 

Iraq condemned all human rights violations in Syria, noting that all perpetrators needed to be held accountable in line with the law.  The solution to the crisis in Syria had to be political and could only be reached through peaceful negotiations between the warring parties.  New Zealand stated that the agreement brokered by the United States and Russia had presented some hope that progress could finally be made in ending the Syrian conflict.  As Security Council President in September, New Zealand would convene a high-level meeting on Syria on 21 September.  United Kingdom stated that there was clear evidence that Assad and Daesh had used chemical weapons to kill civilians, all of which once again showed their callous disregard for human life.  A long-term solution lay in an enduring political settlement.  The Syrian High Negotiations Committee had shown its commitment to a moderate political future for Syria.

Italy was deeply concerned by the findings which highlighted a serious deterioration of the human rights situation and the intensification of the fighting on the ground.  There was no alternative to reviving the political track.  Tunisia hoped that Syrians would be able to go back to a life of peace, and that children would be able to return to school without the fear of shelling.   Any prolongation of the crisis provided fanatics with the opportunity to further infiltrate the Syrian society.  The territorial integrity of Syria ought to be preserved.  Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that Syria was being targeted by some dishonest forces for their sinister political purposes in the Human Rights Council.  The humanitarian consequences on the ground were mostly caused by terrorists, who were backed by the United States and some western countries and committed heinous crimes.   

Sovereign Order of Malta said it supported numerous medical projects in Syria through its international humanitarian relief agency, Malteser International, adding that the destruction of Syria’s health system was against international humanitarian law.  It called on all concerned parties to cease assaults on medical care facilities.  Bahrain deeply regretted that humanitarian access was denied in Syria, as well as bestial crimes against civilians.  It reminded of the four million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and commended the United States-Russian agreement.  Luxembourg expressed strong support for the work of the Commission of Inquiry and deplored the lack of cooperation by the Syrian Government, as well as massive human rights violations against the civilian population.  The Syrian authorities had to allow immediate humanitarian access to those in need. 

Latvia noted that the scale and severity of human rights abuses and violations in Syria remained disturbing, including assaults on medical facilities and medical personnel.  Latvia fully concurred with the view of the Commission that the restoration of peace was an imperative.  Pressure on all parties had to continue.  Romania strongly urged all parties to the conflict to fulfil their obligation to protect civilians, and urged that humanitarian access was ensured and lifesaving essentials provided to those in need.  It strongly condemned the attacks on medical workers and facilities.  Republic of Korea expressed grave concern about the unspeakable humanitarian disasters that Syrian civilians were facing.  It expressed hope that the failure of the cease fire agreement in February would not be repeated again and that humanitarian access would be permitted without any hindrance.  

Belarus stated that the cessation of hostilities was a glimmer of hope that the peaceful population of Syria had been waiting for.  All efforts needed to be put into maintaining the current ceasefire brokered by Russia and the United States.  The Human Rights Council should reject politicized and one-sided accusations against the Syrian Government.  Portugal said that gross human rights violations and abuses continued to be perpetrated across Syria by all sides and in total impunity.  The huge number of refugees and displaced persons demanded a comprehensive response by all actors in Syria and the international community.  The situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court.  Ghana noted with deep concern that some parties to the conflict had gained notoriety for breaching the agreement hours after being signed for reasons only known to them.  Ghana called on the Government and all stakeholders involved in the conflict to do more to find a lasting political resolution to the conflict. 

Iran deplored the continuing violations of human rights and violence in Syria, at the arms of the terrorist armed groups.  Iran was particularly concerned by the horrific crimes committed by Daesh, and reiterated its position on the necessity that a political solution to the crisis be found.  All parties involved in the conflict were called upon to redouble their efforts to find a political solution.  Jordan  insisted on the need for a strong ceasefire and an urgent political solution to the Syrian crisis.  Jordan urged all countries which had influence on conditions on the ground to do their best in that regard.  All parts of the population, as well as the territorial integrity of Syria, had to be protected.    

Union of Arab Jurists noted that the report was partial and biased against the Syrian authorities, clarifying that the conflict was between the sovereign Syrian State and groups of mercenaries and terrorists who perpetrated grave human rights violations.  The Commission had gone beyond its mandate in asking the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in a joint statement, urged the Council to strengthen its actions on Syria, in particular to ensure that perpetrators of crimes against international law were brought to justice.  Accountability and the voice of victims should remain at the forefront of the Council’s work.  Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom strongly encouraged the Commission to develop the gendered analysis and integrate it in all its reports to reflect how the armed conflict undermined women’s social, political and economic participation.  It urged all involved States and armed groups to immediately stop using starvation and besiegement chips for their political interests, and to refrain from selling weapons to any of the conflict parties. 

United Nations Watch drew attention to cases of arbitrary detention in Syria, as well as to starvation, ethnic cleansing and other atrocities.  Some of those atrocities had been perpetrated by terrorist groups while others had been perpetrated by the Syrian regime forces, such as the use of chemical weapons.  Victims needed recourse to international justice.  World Jewish Congress expressed concern over the upsurge in fighting between the warring parties since late March.  It was also concerned about the current report’s lack of focus on minorities, such as the Yazidis and Christians in the Middle East.  Further sustained and expanded humanitarian operations had to continue while ensuring the rights of civilians in conflict zones.  World Council of Arameans called the Council’s attention to the genocide by ISIS against vulnerable minorities, such as the Arameans and Yazidis.  It condemned the exclusion of Syrian indigenous minorities from the peace talks that were shaping the future of their society and ancestral land.

Amnesty International said that its research had revealed widespread and systematic torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances.  At least 17,700 had died in custody in Syria since March 2011.  All parties had to provide immediate and unhindered access to recognized international detention monitors to monitor all persons deprived of their liberty.  Arab Commission for Human Rights stated that the Commission had managed to document thousands of cases of human rights violations, many of them unarmed civilians, women and children.  Syria had become a playground for terrorist groups, such as Daesh.  How were “extremist elements” defined?  


Concluding Remarks

Syria, speaking as the concerned county in concluding remarks, objected to the standards of fact-finding, checking and verification of allegations used by the Commission of Inquiry, hence statements should not be believed.  The reports were groundless and were provided by individuals that lacked credibility.  Citizens who wanted to benefit from the pardon decree had been granted this pardon by the Government.  Allegations regarding the removal of landmines were baseless.  Citizens were provided assistance to return to their homes after the landmines had been cleared and the infrastructure had been developed.  Hostilities had diminished and food stuff and medical assistance had been provided, including to remote areas, without any discrimination.  As for the allegations of the use of prohibited weapons by the Syrian Government, the third report of the relevant Commission had proved otherwise, and it required periodic follow-up.  The Government of Syria was ready to cooperate with whoever wanted to find out the truth.

PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry, in lieu of making his own concluding remarks, handed the floor to the other members of the Commission of Inquiry.

VITIT MUNTARBHORN, Member of the Commission of Inquiry, said that there were well-known international practices advocated by international humanitarian law to deal with missing persons.  With regard to a question on Daesh, he said that an earlier report covered that group’s income and finances, and added that those questions were covered by procedures of the United Nations Security Council related to listed terrorist organizations.  In response to the question from Switzerland concerning medical personnel, he said that the best way to protect healthcare institutions was to respect international humanitarian law.  But the conflict in Syria was marred by an absence of respect for international humanitarian law.  Attacks on medical care facilities were numerous; they were in fact “rampant war crimes.”  Cases, through the Security Council, should be referred to international mechanisms, he said, while not forgetting national and universal jurisdiction at the national level.  The Commission had published various findings committed by parallel mechanisms already.  Local mechanisms would be important to the future of Syria.  There was a key need for institutional and legal reforms now and in the future regarding strengthening of due process guarantees.

CARLA DEL PONTE, Member of the Commission of Inquiry, noted the Commission’s lack of resources to conduct formal investigations, which were needed as fast as possible.  The international community needed to be ready for a future tribunal.  One case had been tried already, regarding the situation of Yazidis.  She noted that cooperation with Syria was “zero,” but expressed hope that Syria would see the value of cooperating.  The Commission of Inquiry also had some problems with European States to allow investigators of the Commission of Inquiry access to refugees from Syria.  “Don’t forget: no peace without justice,” she underlined, adding that if the international community wanted real peace in Syria, justice for the victims was needed.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC16/129E