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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON THE SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC

Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria Addresses the Council
26 June 2018

The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting held an interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.  The Council also heard an address by Karin Kneissl, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria. 

Ms. Kneissl said Austria was dismayed that in 2018 some 200 million women and girls worldwide were still victims of female genital mutilation and was committed to fighting the practice.  She affirmed there was no alternative to addressing common problems by mechanisms of effective multilateralism.  The Council was not perfect and it represented the diverging interests of States.  However, the Council held States who violated rights to account.  Following the United States’ withdrawal from the Council, there was a need to look at the Council’s shortcomings.  Austria was convinced that if elected to the Council, it would make substantial contributions to the protection of human rights.

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chairperson the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, presenting the update on the recent events in eastern Ghouta, stressed that the update was eerily similar to previous ones.  The situation in eastern Ghouta had been foreseeable and preventable.  Medieval siege warfare in Syria encompassed some of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated in recent history towards civilians.  Over 920,000 Syrians had been displaced during the first four months of 2018 alone.  Six million Syrians were now internally displaced, and 5.5 million remained refugees in neighbouring countries.  There were too many parties and too many powerful States providing military support and having competing agendas, none of which prioritised the needs of victims.  The only way to end the conflict was for the parties to engage in genuine political dialogue an d to put the words of Security Council resolution 2254 into concrete action.  

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said the Commission’s report was riddled with false statements.  Syria was the victim of hostile and negative approaches to address the crisis.  The report on eastern Ghouta was full of contradictions and errors, especially in the standards of evidence used by the Commission.  The Commission of Inquiry was selective in its work and adopted false narratives that ignored witness accounts.  The Commission declined to recognize the legal right of the State to defend itself in the face of crimes committed by terrorist-affiliated organizations. 

Karen Koning Abuzayd, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, told the Council that children had always paid the highest price and that they remained vulnerable to violations.  Children in Syria suffered from acute or moderate malnutrition due to sieges, lack of access to education, and the recruitment of children in northern Syria was ongoing in some cases.  The conflict had displaced hundreds of thousands of women, men and children.  The Commission of Inquiry had published a brief policy paper on those issues and had proposed a series of practical recommendations to address the rights of forcibly displaced civilians. 

Hanny Megally, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, reminded the Council that the Commission had issued a conference paper on sexual violence in Syria.  It was important for survivors to overcome the perception of shame and guilt, and to participate in the discussions on the future of Syria, as well as to receive psychological assistance in cases of trauma.   As for ending impunity for the use of chemical weapons, the Commission of Inquiry supported the establishment of an international attribution mechanism.  On transparency of future evacuation agreements, Mr. Megally said that the Commission had tried to document what had been happening.  Civilian populations should be consulted about where they would go.  No one should be forcibly displaced.

In the ensuing discussion, delegations condemned the use of siege warfare and starvation tactics in eastern Ghouta and stressed that all responsible groups identified by the Commission had to be held accountable for their crimes.  States worked to secure conditions for humanitarian assistance and a call was launched for unfettered humanitarian access to all regions in Syria.  The conflict had a disproportionate effect on children.  The use of chemical weapons was deplored and concerns were raised over evacuation agreements.  Efforts to find a political solution to the conflict based on relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions had to be supported.  States supported the Commission’s work and asked when it would conclude its probe into chemical attacks, what could the international community do to end the impunity for chemical weapons use, and how could rules of evacuation agreements be fully respected.  Syria was urged to grant the Commission full and unhindered country-wide access. 

Speaking during the discussion were Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, Qatar, Germany, Kuwait, Maldives, Canada, Poland, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Czechia, Belgium, France, Egypt, Jordan, Croatia, Italy, Estonia, Australia, Switzerland, Japan, Chile, Netherlands, Spain, Morocco, Iran, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Bahrain, Mexico, China, Algeria, Belarus, Russia, Cuba, Romania, Georgia, Ecuador, United Kingdom, Turkey, Ireland, Iraq, and Venezuela.

The following civil society organizations also spoke: World Council of Arameans (Syriacs); Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; United Nations Watch; Union of Arab Jurists; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILF) (in a joint statement with Action Canada for Population and Development); Christian Solidarity Worldwide; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues. 


The Council will next hold a panel discussion on the human rights of internally displaced persons in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.


Statement by the Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria

KARIN KNEISSL, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria, said 70 years ago, the international community had come together to build a new international architecture based on promoting development and human rights.  Twenty-five years ago, Vienna had hosted the World Conference on Human Rights which resulted in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration, Austria and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had organised a high-level follow-up conference that provided the opportunity to prepare for emerging challenges posed by new global trends.  Gender equality was now a cross-cutting theme that opened dialogue on a range of issues including girls’ education and gender-based violence.  Austria was dismayed that in 2018 some 200 million women and girls worldwide were still victims of female genital mutilation and was committed to fighting the practice.

There was no alternative to addressing common problems by mechanisms of effective multilateralism.  Dialogue, coordination and international cooperation had been among the guiding principles of Austria’s foreign policy.  To that end, Austria was seeking support for its candidacy to the Human Rights Council for the period of 2019-2021.  The Council was not perfect, nor was any other United Nations body.  The Council represented the diverging interests of States.  Membership in the Council was not a shield for States to hide from criticism.  Instead, the Council held States who violated rights to account. 

The fact that the Democratic Republic of Congo and Venezuela were Council members had not precluded them from criticism.  Following the United States’ withdrawal from the Human Rights Council, there was a need to look at the body’s shortcomings.  Austria was convinced that if elected to the Council it would make substantial contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights for everyone. 

Documentation

The Council has before it the report on the siege and occupation of eastern Ghouta (A/HRC/38/CRP3)

Presentation of Update by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, presenting the update on the recent events in eastern Ghouta, said that the story was eerily similar to previous updates of the Commission of Inquiry.  While the situation in eastern Ghouta had changed swiftly this year, the tragedy for civilians had occurred in slow motion over five years.  That was a situation that had been foreseeable and preventable.  Medieval siege warfare in Syria encompassed some of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated in recent history, and civilians remained the primary victims of that gruesome tactic.  Sieges throughout Syria, laid by all sides to the conflict, had been regularly used as a form of collective punishment – to erode the viability of civilian life intentionally, to turn the besieged civilian population against the warring party “governing” them, to compel surrender, and to forcibly displace dissident civilians.  The battle to recapture eastern Ghouta was marked by pervasive war crimes committed by all sides.  The scale of disregard for human life by all parties to the conflict was incalculable, and their total contempt for the laws of war unprecedented.  Yet parties were determined to address every problem or difficulty as if it were a military objective – justifying the use of heavy or indiscriminate weaponry; employing force and terror rather than compassion and persuasion.  There were too many parties and too many powerful States providing military support and having competing agendas, none of which prioritised the needs of victims for whom they purport to be fighting for.  Sadly, no party had accepted the essential fact that without support for a political solution, the suffering of the Syrian people seemed destined only to worsen into an endless future, Mr. Pinheiro stressed. 

Leaving their possessions behind, more than 920,000 Syrians had been displaced during the first four months of 2018 alone.  Over 6 million Syrians were now internally displaced, while over 5.5 million remained refugees in neighbouring countries.  All of those civilians deserved to have their housing, land, and property rights respected, and to be able to return safely home.  Under no circumstances should domestic laws interfere with those rights.  There were more than 2 million Syrians living in hard-to-reach areas, including in northern rural Homs, Douma, and southern Damascus, where desperation characterised their daily lives.  Only six humanitarian aid convoys had reached those areas so far during 2018.  Nearly 2.5 million people were being pushed further and further towards the north-west border.  The dying days of any battle were no cause for celebration, and the recapture of eastern Ghouta should not deceive warring parties into believing that a military solution was possible.  There was only one way to end the conflict in Syria and to stop the suffering of the civilian population.  That was for the parties to come to the table and engage in genuine and constructive political dialogue, and to embark upon discussions that would put the words of Security Council resolution 2254 into concrete action.  The next opportunity would be the all-inclusive committee tasked with drafting a new Syrian constitution.  As the political process continued, it was essential that human rights and accountability remained key issues at the negotiation table.  Perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity had to be held to account.  That was not negotiable, Mr. Pinheiro concluded. 

Statement by the Concerned Country

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said the Commission’s report was riddled with false statements.  Syria was the victim of hostile and negative approaches to address the crisis.  The State was responsible for the protection of its people.  The report was beyond the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry.  The report on eastern Ghouta was full of contradictions and errors, especially in the standards of evidence used by the Commission.  The Commission of Inquiry was selective in its work and adopted false narratives that ignored witness accounts.  The Commission declined to recognize the legal right of the State to defend itself in the face of crimes committed by terrorist-affiliated organizations.  The report avoided assigning any responsibility to regional bodies that were running and funding terrorists.  It also ignored crimes committed by the United States and its allies.  The aggression of the Turkish regime was displacing Syrians.  The Commission continued ignoring the effects of coercive economic measures that were impacting the lives of Syrians.  The Government rejected the Commission’s attempts to compare the Government to mercenaries and terrorists.

Interactive Dialogue

Denmark, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that the Syrian regime continued to use starvation tactics and forced displacement, usually disguised as evacuation deals and increased bombarding in the south-western de-escalation zone, and this was deeply concerning.  Peace in Syria would not come through the barrel of a gun.  European Union said it would continue intensive humanitarian diplomacy and all parties were called on to release persons detained contrary to international humanitarian law.  The Syrian regime bore the overwhelming responsibility for the catastrophic situation and suffering of people.  Qatar said that the use of siege, starvation and attacks on densely populated areas had shown that the Syrian regime wanted to foil the negotiations, and the failure of the international community to assist civilians.  The Security Council was urged to put an end to the crisis.

Germany called for accountability for human rights violations and emphasised the important role of the Commission of Inquiry.  The Commission was encouraged to continue impartial investigation into the chemical attacks that had taken place in Douma on 7 April.  Kuwait firmly condemned war crimes and crimes against humanity committed across Syria.  As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Kuwait regretted the lack of implementation of the resolution and was striving to implement humanitarian measures and ensure that civilians find a path to stability.  Maldives said that members of the Council had to elevate shared commitment to alleviate the suffering of Syrian children and women in particular.  It was imperative that every country and its peoples understood the ethical boundaries that were being pushed to limits while the civil war in Syria raged on for a seventh year. 

Canada noted that all the responsible groups identified by the Commission of Inquiry had to be held accountable for their crimes.  Siege warfare tactics violated international criminal law, human rights law, international humanitarian law, and may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Poland reminded that while children across the world would now go on a summer and winter school break, Syrian children would continue playing the horrifying hide-and-seek for life, liberty and security.  As a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Poland continued its active engagement to secure conditions for humanitarian assistance in Syria.  United Arab Emirates reminded that after five years of blockade, eastern Ghouta had seen unprecedented destruction of civilian infrastructure, which was tantamount to a war crime.  It called for unfettered humanitarian access to all regions in Syria that needed aid, and for a political solution to the conflict without foreign interference.

Brazil remained concerned about continued reports of grave human rights violations of human rights by all sides to the conflict in Syria.  It strongly condemned any use of chemical weapons by any party under any circumstance.  The only way forward to improve human rights in Syria was through a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political solution.  Czechia said it was gravely concerned about the horrific impact of the Syrian conflict on children.  It called on all sides to immediately stop using siege warfare aimed at forcing populations to starve or surrender.  It strongly supported efforts to find a political solution to the conflict through intra-Syrian talks under the auspices of the United Nations.  Belgium voiced concern about the indiscriminate use of prohibited weapons, including chemical weapons, bombing of densely populated areas, the organization of deliberate famines, targeting of hospitals and schools, and denial of humanitarian aid in Syria.  The report showed that neither party to the conflict respected its obligations under international humanitarian law. 

France said human rights were being violated on a daily basis in Syria by the State and terrorist organizations.  As stated in the report, several actions committed during the siege on eastern Ghouta could be classified as crimes against humanity, and perpetrators must be brought to justice.  France asked when the Commission would conclude its probe into chemical attacks.  Egypt said it paid close attention to the human rights situation in Syria and remained particularly concerned about the actions of terrorist organizations.  The conflict was having a disproportionate effect on children.  Syria’s vital infrastructure had been affected on a massive scale, impacting the living standards of all Syrians.  Jordan noted the importance of recommendations on eastern Ghouta included in the report.  The only solution to the Syrian crisis was a political one based on relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.  Jordan called for the respect of de-escalation agreements and condemned the fighting.

Croatia strongly supported the Commission of Inquiry’s work and its recommendations.  Syria was urged to grant the Commission full and unhindered country-wide access.  There was a wide range of reports of human rights violations in Syria.  Lack of access to food and sanitation and the destruction of medical facilities and schools were particular concerns.  Italy was deeply concerned over persistent violations of human rights and humanitarian law across Syria.  The rights of returnees must be taken into consideration.  Italy condemned all attacks on civilian populations and urged all parties to allow access to humanitarian agencies to the country.  Estonia said pro-Government forces intended to terrorise besieged civilians in an effort to accelerate the recapture of eastern Ghouta.  The Syrian regime had removed critical medical supplies from humanitarian deliveries to the region.  All parties were urged to cooperate with United Nations entities.  The crisis must be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Australia supported the work of the fact-finding mission but regretted the actions of the Syrian Government and its backers in preventing the re-establishment of an attribution mechanism.  What more could the international community do to end the impunity for chemical weapons use?  Switzerland condemned the use of sieges and famine as weapons of war in eastern Ghouta. What measures could be undertaken to ensure that the rules of the evacuation agreements were fully respected?  Japan said the crisis could only be solved through a political solution.  All parties were urged to cease military means in order to ensure safe, rapid and unhindered humanitarian access and cooperate through the United Nations-led Geneva process.

Chile said that worsening military campaigns from February to April this year had resulted in 140,000 internally displaced persons moving from eastern Ghouta to other areas in Syria.  The international community had to stop the plight of civilians and all parties were urged to find a political solution.  Netherlands called on all parties to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and called on Russia to employ its good offices to ensure unhindered access for the Commission.  Evacuation agreements were deeply worrying and the Chairperson was asked how could transparency of possible future evacuations be improved, in a way that did not make one an accomplice to a violation of international law?  Spain continued to insist that there had to be unhindered access of the Commission of Inquiry to Syria.  The situation of displaced persons was extremely worrying and facilitation of voluntary return was proposed.  Morocco deplored the tragic impact of the conflict in Syria, with its high toll of loss of civilian lives and overall destruction.  It noted with dismay that the campaign to capture eastern Ghouta had been marked by war crimes committed by all sides, and the fact that children paid the highest price in the conflict. 

Remarks by Members of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, said that the Commission of Inquiry was concerned about the number of countries which conducted military campaigns in Syria.  Unfortunately, very few of the Commission’s information requests had been answered by those countries.  As for the Commission’s investigation of the attack on Douma, it was ongoing and Mr. Pinheiro said that the Commission could not comment about the possible duration of those investigations. Turning to the situation of religious minorities in Syria, he said that the Commission had documented their systematic plight.  In eastern Ghouta, they had been held as bargaining chips by armed groups for years.

KAREN KONING ABUZAYD, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, noted that children had always paid the highest price and that they remained vulnerable to violations.  Children in Syria suffered from acute or moderate malnutrition due to sieges, lack of access to education, and the recruitment of children in northern Syria was ongoing in some cases.  The conflict had displaced hundreds of thousands of women, men and children.  The Commission of Inquiry had published a brief policy paper on those issues and had proposed a series of practical recommendations to address the rights of forcibly displaced civilians.  It dealt with how they had been displaced, where they had gone, whether they had been in camps, and whether they had been allowed to return home.

HANNY MEGALLY, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, reminded that the Commission had issued a conference paper on sexual violence in Syria.  It was important for survivors to overcome the perception of shame and guilt, and to participate in the discussions on the future of Syria, as well as to receive psychological assistance in cases of trauma.   As for ending impunity for the use of chemical weapons, the Commission of Inquiry supported the establishment of an international attribution mechanism.  On transparency of future evacuation agreements, Mr. Megally said that the Commission had tried to document what had been happening.  Civilian populations should be consulted about where they would go.  No one should be forcibly displaced.   

Interactive Dialogue

Iran reiterated that the root causes of the critical situation in Syria were the criminal acts and the extreme violence committed by terrorist armed groups, including ISIS and its allies.  The emergence and continuation of the crisis in Syria would have not been possible without the persistent assistance of certain actors in the region and beyond.  Liechtenstein condemned the collective punishment in Syria through denial of freedom of movement, indiscriminate bombardment, denial of access to humanitarian aid, food, water and medicine, and forced displacement.  It welcomed the decision by a number of States to hold individual perpetrators accountable under the principle of universal jurisdiction, including high-ranking Syrian officials.  Slovenia condemned in the strongest terms war crimes committed by armed groups in Syria, noting that the role of the Commission of Inquiry was vital for gathering evidence and investigating all violations and abuses of international human rights and international humanitarian law. 

Saudi Arabia noted that the siege of eastern Ghouta had led to the displacement of thousands of civilians.  The Syrian crisis had taken an unprecedented toll on innocent civilians.  The crisis had to be solved politically in line with United Nations resolutions.  Greece said that the respect for a ceasefire in Syria and the cessation of hostilities by all parties was of paramount importance for achieving the immediate goals of saving Syrian people’s lives.  Geneva had to remain at the epicentre of the efforts for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.  Democratic People’s Republic of Korea underlined that the human rights of the Syrian people could be fully guaranteed only when terrorists were removed with the termination of foreign support to them.  Redundant politicized debate on Syria and the Commission of Inquiry should be discontinued. 

New Zealand noted that the delivery of humanitarian assistance to people in need remained extremely challenging as a result of the active conflict, shifts in frontlines and intermittent closures of border-crossings.  What measures did the Commission recommend to help address the psychological harm of civilians of eastern Ghouta?  Bahrain commended the Commission’s work in documenting serious human rights violations.  The Syrian crisis was entering its turning point after seven years of violence and it was only getting worse, further destabilizing the country.  Mexico recognized the importance of the mandate of the Commission but regretted that it was not granted access to all regions of Syria.  States were urged to stop sending arms to parties of the conflict and the Commission was asked about the impact that the international arms flow had on the deterioration and prolongation of the conflict?

China said that a political solution, in line with Security Council resolutions, was the only way to help Syria emerge from the conflict.  Chemical attacks and humanitarian assistance had to be properly addressed and Syria’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty had to be respected.  Algeria closely followed the crisis in Syria and condemned all human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law.  It was desirable to avoid an escalation of the crisis which was why Algeria supported the efforts of Staffan de Mistura.  It was important not to lose sight of the urgency of the problem.  Belarus noted that in spite of the proclaimed standard methodology, the report gave rise to questions.  Most of the blame was attributed to the Syrian Government, thus blaming one party only.  A more balanced approach was needed by the Office of the High Commissioner to assist in the peace process.

Russian Federation said the information contained in the report was biased and politicized.  Eastern Ghouta was not seized once again, but instead was liberated from hostile forces.  The report paid little attention to acts of aggression by the United States, United Kingdom and France against Syria.  Cuba said only through dialogue and cooperation could the world’s issues be addressed.  Cuba reiterated its support for a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis that respected that country’s sovereignty.  Cuba rejected the loss of civilian lives and acts of terrorism and trusted that Syrians would be able to solve their problems by themselves.  Romania said human rights and humanitarian violations continued in Syria despite widespread international condemnation.  Humanitarian access must be assured.  Romania urged efforts to address gender-based violence in the country.  As the conflict entered its eighth year, reinvigorated efforts were needed to reach sustainable peace.

Georgia noted that deliberate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure were worsening the humanitarian situation in Syria.  Authorities must ensure safe access to United Nations and other human rights bodies.  Georgia condemned the use of chemical weapons and looked forward to the results of the fact-finding mission on the matter.  Ecuador reiterated its strongest rejection of widespread human rights violations in Syria that amounted to crimes against humanity.  Ecuador urgently appealed for a diplomatic solution that would bring about an end to the crisis and permit access of humanitarian assistance into the country.  United Kingdom said pro-Government groups had committed crimes against humanity.  The Human Rights Council must act in the face of such grave rights violations.  The United Kingdom deplored all uses of chemical weapons and asked if the Commission would focus on housing, land and property rights in its coming reports.

Turkey firmly rejected the baseless allegations made by the representative of Syria.  With medieval tactics of “starve and surrender” during the horrendous besiegement of eastern Ghouta, the Syrian regime had shown that it had no respect for one single life.  Turkey condemned the regime’s demographic re-engineering in the country, such as the forced displacement of nearly 140,000 civilians from eastern Ghouta.  Ireland condemned in the strongest terms the continued and deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure in Syria, as well as the continued use of prohibited weapons, including chemical weapons and cluster ammunition.  Iraq expressed deep concern about the suffering of the Syrian people, especially of the most vulnerable ones.  There could be no military solution to the Syrian crisis, but the fight against terrorism of the Syrian authorities fell under its national sovereignty.  The reconstruction of war affected areas in Syria should be a priority.  Venezuela deeply regretted the loss of thousands of lives and the suffering of the Syrian people.  It rejected the information manipulation carried out by international media outlets, which were at the service of obscure interests.  Venezuela demanded full respect for the rights to self-determination, sovereignty, independence, unity and integrity of the Syrian territory. 

World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) noted that the armed Kurdish YPG forces, which still occupied a part of northern Syria, covertly cleansed that region from its natives in their aim for Kurdish autonomy.  The organization reminded that rebel forces from eastern Ghouta had shelled not only Syrian Government’s positions, but also the defenceless Christian quarters of Damascus.  Organization for Defending Victims of Violence stated that much of the civilian infrastructure in Syria had been destroyed, whereas children had no access to school and hospitals.  The only way out was the peace talks between the Government of Syria and other stakeholders.  Regional countries should start multilateral talks for Syria.

United Nations Watch said that security forces were arresting families fighting for freedom to enjoy their rights and no information was further provided about them.  The Council was asked to assist families in obtaining information about forcibly disappeared persons.  Union of Arab Jurists said that since the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry, it had sought to demonize the Syrian Government in order to overthrow it.  The report did not highlight the violations of Syrian sovereignty committed by terrorists who came from over 100 countries.  Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that the recommendation concerning reconstruction funding for Syria would require transparent and consistent monitoring.  The Council was asked to establish a mechanism to guide reconstruction funding and business engagement within Syria, in line with accountability and other human rights related benchmarks.

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILF) in a joint statement with Action Canada for Population and Development said that in March this year, the Commission of Inquiry had released a ground-breaking report on sexual- and gender-based violence in Syria.  The Council members were urged to ensure that the Commission’s findings and recommendations were addressed with adequate follow-up.  Christian Solidarity Worldwide was concerned that new Law Number 10 of 2018, which gave just weeks for Syrians to register and prove they owned their homes before the Government was able to sell them off at action, would disadvantage the five million Syrians who had fled the country and the six million who were displaced internally.  International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said that over 11 million Syrians were internally or externally displaced.  Concern was expressed that evacuation agreements constituted the crime of forced displacement and demographic engineering.  Moreover, Law Number 10 risked large-scale confiscation of houses by the Government and loss of homes of displaced persons.

Concluding Remarks

Syria said no Syrian citizens had left liberated regions against their own will.  Delegations had made untrue remarks about legislation being discussed in Syria on returnees and land rights.  Those speakers had not read the provisions of the law.  Property was guaranteed by the State in line with the constitution.

PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said Member States must adhere to international arms trade obligations.  United Nations Security Council resolutions prevented the transfer of arms to certain terrorist entities.  The Commission would continue to closely follow developments on housing, land and property rights.  Any changes to the legal framework impacting property rights must not discriminate against any citizen.

HANNY MEGALLY, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said the Commission was working closely with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and progress was being made.  Cooperation was underway with judicial bodies seeking advice as part of efforts to ensure accountability.  Experts that could work with survivors must be granted access to the country.  Syrians must be granted the right to return with dignity.  The Commission was documenting ways to ensure accountability and the matter extended beyond criminal justice.  Mechanisms on accountability would deal with disappearances and truth telling.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC18.093E