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Human Rights Council debates situation of human rights in Syrian Arab Republic in Special Session

22 August 2011

The Human Rights Council this afternoon began a Special Session concerning the “situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic”. The session was convened after the Council received a request from the delegations of the European Union and Poland, backed by 24 other Member States and signed by 32 Observer States. This is the second Special Session the Council has convened on the situation in the Syria in the last four months; the last such meeting was held on 29 April 2011.

In opening remarks, Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that on 29 April 2011, the Human Rights Council requested that a fact-finding mission be dispatched to Syria to investigate all alleged violations of human rights law. The report was released on 18 August and, on the same day Ms. Pillay briefed the members of the Security Council and urged them to consider referring the current situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. The fact-finding mission found a pattern of widespread and systematic human rights violations by Syrian security and military forces, including murder, enforced disappearances, torture, deprivation of liberty, and persecution. Although the report covered the period of 15 March to 15 July 2011, there were indications that a pattern of violations continues until today. The scale and nature of these acts may amount to crimes against humanity.

Ms. Pillay went on to say that the government of Syria did not give access to the mission. Nonetheless, the mission gathered credible, corroborated, and consistent accounts of violations from victims and witnesses, including military defectors, and Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. While demonstrations were largely peaceful, the military and security forces had resorted to an apparent shoot-to-kill policy. Snipers on rooftops had targeted protestors, bystanders who were trying to help the wounded and ambulances. The mission also documented incidents of summary execution outside the context of the demonstrations, and during house-to-house searches and in hospitals. Victims and witnesses reported widespread attempts to cover up killings by the security forces. The authorities imposed de-facto blockades on several cities and deprived inhabitants of basic goods and services. Restrictions imposed on freedom of movement prevented injured persons from receiving medical treatment. Security forces had pursued a policy of arbitrary arrest and detention of individuals suspected of having taken part in demonstrations.

The Council was also addressed in a videotaped message on behalf of all Special Procedures by Juan Mendes, United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture. Mr. Mendes said that he had been alerted to some of the worst violations a State could commit against its people. He denounced the scale and gravity of the crackdown against largely peaceful demonstrations by the people of Syria. The figures spoke for themselves; since mid-March 2011 there had been 2,000 reported deaths in Syria, with numerous injuries from shelling, live ammunition, heavy machine guns, sniping and ill-treatment, including thousands of arbitrary detentions of protesters, incommunicado detention, and possibly a large number of enforced disappearances. Mr. Mendes said he feared the threshold of systematic violence had been reached. Entire cities and towns had reportedly been besieged, depriving the population of food and water supplies and creating a humanitarian crisis. It has not been easy to gather precise information about the extent of the atrocities unfolding on the ground, as journalists, human rights defenders and others had been prevented from monitoring the situation and investigating violations.

The delegation of Syria took the floor as a concerned country and said the report of the fact-finding mission included statements which misconstrued the truth, including the mentioning of crimes of war and against humanity, reflecting the view of States hostile to Syria. This constituted an attempt to terrorize the country and wage war against it. Syria continued to be subjected to an unprecedented campaign directed at influencing its domestic politics, cause sectarian strife and portray the massacres perpetrated by armed gangs as a movement of peaceful demonstrations calling for reform and democracy. This was far from the truth. How was it possible to explain that more than 600 members of the armed forces had died; how could the destruction of government institutions and of private property be explained? The Government had lifted the emergency law, abolished the Supreme State Security Court, issued amnesty orders and set up a committee for national dialogue which held consultations with politicians, intellectuals, activists and representatives of civil society, the release of prisoners who had not committed crimes punishable by law, and decrees on general elections, local administration and the media.

Representatives of Member States then took the floor to make comments. Many condemned the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators and reminded all States that violent repression of protests was contrary to international human rights obligations. States also called on Syria to release political prisoners and human rights defenders, including those arrested as part of the peaceful protests. States also called on Syrian authorities to investigate alleged human rights violations and to bring those responsible to justice through fair, impartial, transparent, and independent processes. Speakers urged the Syrian government to cooperate with the United Nations mechanisms by allowing country visits by the Office of the High Commissioner and relevant Special Procedures mandate holders. Several speakers noted that the conduct of the Syrian authorities could constitute crimes against humanity and they reminded Syria of its international human rights obligations. Several delegations suggested the Human Rights Council should refer the matter to the Security Council so that it could then refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.

There were other speakers, however, who said that the situation in Syria was being manipulated by some aspects of the media and foreign press and human rights were not the true motivation for this Special Session. Instead the true objectives of some countries, including Israel and the United States, were to bring about regime change in Syria and to change the map of the region. Several speakers said the alleged protection of human lives should not be used as a pretext for foreign intervention. The process that led to what was now occurring in Libya began in this very same Human Rights Council. If the Human Rights Council was so concerned about human rights, why did they not call a meeting to investigate the actions of NATO in Afghanistan, the actions of Israel or the abductions of persons who had been arrested without due course and were now being tortured in the illegal detention centre of Guantanamo? Speakers said they opposed outside parties meddling into a State’s internal affairs and rejected any violations of state sovereignty.

Speaking during this morning’s debate were representatives from the following Member States: Poland on behalf of the European Union, Italy, Thailand, Switzerland, Indonesia, China, Spain, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Norway, the United States, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Russian Federation, Malaysia, Nigeria, Austria, Qatar, the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Botswana, Belgium, Cuba, Mexico, Romania, the Maldives and India.

The following Observer States also took the floor: France, Germany, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, New Zealand, Israel, Canada, Bulgaria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Iran, Venezuela, Japan, Sweden, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Denmark, Paraguay, Iraq, Slovakia and Croatia.

Representatives from the following non-governmental organization organizations also took the floor: United Towns Agency for North South Cooperation, CIVICUS, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, the Press Emblem Campaign, United Nations Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, Amman Centre for Human Rights Studies, Amnesty International, the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, the Arab Commission for Human Rights and the Indian Movement Tupac Amaru.

The Council will meet again tomorrow morning, Tuesday, 23 August, at 10 a.m. to continue the Special Session and consider the proposed draft resolution.

Opening Statements

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, commended the initiative of the Council in holding a second special session on the situation of human rights in Syria, and she said that the gravity of the ongoing violations and the brutal attacks against peaceful protesters in Syria demanded continued attention. On 29 April 2011, the Human Rights Council requested that a fact-finding mission be dispatched to Syria to investigate all alleged violations of human rights law. The report was released on 18 August and, on the same day Ms. Pillay briefed the members of the Security Council and urged them to consider referring the current situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. The fact-finding mission found a pattern of widespread and systematic human rights violations by Syrian security and military forces, including murder, enforced disappearances, torture, deprivation of liberty, and persecution. Although the report covered the period of 15 March to 15 July 2011, there were indications that a pattern of violations continues until today. The scale and nature of these acts may amount to crimes against humanity. The government of Syria did not give access to the mission. Nonetheless, the mission gathered credible, corroborated, and consistent accounts of violations from victims and witnesses, including military defectors, and Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. While demonstrations were largely peaceful, the military and security forces had resorted to an apparent shoot-to-kill policy. Snipers on rooftops had targeted protestors, bystanders who were trying to help the wounded and ambulances. The mission also documented incidents of summary execution outside the context of the demonstrations, and during house-to-house searches and in hospitals. Victims and witnesses reported widespread attempts to cover up killings by the security forces. The authorities imposed de-facto blockades on several cities and deprived inhabitants of basic goods and services. Restrictions imposed on freedom of movement prevented injured persons from receiving medical treatment. Security forces had pursued a policy of arbitrary arrest and detention of individuals suspected of having taken part in demonstrations.

In its communications to the Office of the High Commissioner, the Syrian Government denied allegations of wrongful acts. While it acknowledged that about 1,900 people had been killed since mid-March, it claimed that the majority of the victims had been military and security forces killed by armed gangs. The Government also informed the High Commissioner of reforms introduced, such as lifting emergency legislation, abolishing the supreme State Security Court and granting amnesty to thousands of detainees, legislation to regulate peaceful assembly and establishing political parties, and new electoral and information laws. The bloodshed in Hama, Latakia and other Syrian cities just in the past three weeks seriously undermined the credibility of the reform initiatives. Ms. Pillay called on the Syrian Government to immediately and fully halt its crackdown on peaceful protests and to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all detained on the basis of their participation in peaceful demonstrations. The Government should also allow for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Ms. Pillay welcomed the first humanitarian assessment mission to Syria on 20 August and called on the Government to allow open access for international humanitarian workers and impartial investigation of alleged human rights violations. As of today, over two-thousand people had been killed since mass protests began in mid-March, and the military and security forces continued to employ excessive force, including heavy artillery, to quell peaceful demonstrations and regain control over the residents of various cities, particularly in Hama, Homs, Latakia and Deir al-Zour. It was important to hold perpetrators of crimes against humanity accountable. The Office of the High Commissioner had found that such crimes may have been committed in Syria. The people of Syria must be supported in their struggle for fundamental rights and freedoms and the Human Rights Council could play a vital role in that respect.

JUAN MENDES, United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, on behalf of all UN Special Procedures mandate holders, delivered a statement via live video link. Mr. Mendes said he had been alerted to some of the worst violations a State could commit against its people. He denounced the scale and gravity of the crackdown against largely peaceful demonstrations by the people of Syria. The figures spoke for themselves; since mid-March 2011 there had been 2,000 reported deaths in Syria, with numerous injuries from shelling, live ammunition, heavy machine guns, sniping and ill-treatment, including thousands of arbitrary detentions of protesters, incommunicado detention, and possibly a large number of enforced disappearances. Mr. Mendes said he feared the threshold of systematic violence had been reached. Entire cities and towns had reportedly been besieged, depriving the population of food and water supplies and creating a humanitarian crisis. It has not been easy to gather precise information about the extent of the atrocities unfolding on the ground, as journalists, human rights defenders and others had been prevented from monitoring the situation and investigating violations. Many had been targeted, banned from accessing the country, detained, ill-treated and even reported to be missing. Means of communication had been disrupted.

While promising reforms and enacting new legislation, the Government had unfortunately continuously stepped up the crackdown against protesters. The issuing of a number of legislative decrees in April, notably on the termination of the state of emergency, granting Syrian nationality to Kurds, or restricting the detention of people suspected of having committed criminal offences to 24 hours were welcome steps forward. However, they expected much more from the Syrian authorities, starting with an immediate end to the violence. The international community continued to be alerted to reports of excessive use of force against unarmed civilians, attacks against medical facilities and personnel, torture in detention facilities and deaths in custody, and forced disappearances. The international community had a duty to not allow such violations to go unpunished and to decide whether they constituted crimes against humanity. Perpetrators should be prosecuted, judged and held accountable. They deplored that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights fact-finding mission had not been allowed access to the country to get information on the ground. Allowing access would send a strong signal that the Syrian authorities were prepared to cooperate with the United Nations. While the Special Procedures welcomed the mission of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which would hopefully open space for humanitarian assistance, they nevertheless regretted that the government had not actively engaged with their mandates. They once again, in the strongest terms, condemned the violence and expressed solidarity with the Syrian people. They urged the Syrian authorities to stop all acts of violence and embark upon a path of urgent and thorough reforms which met the claims and demands of the Syrian people with respect for the human rights of all.

Statement by Country Concerned

FAYSAL KHABBAS HAMOUI (Syria), speaking as the country concerned, expressed concern about the politicization and double standards in the work of the Council. Some countries had hurried to organize this special session despite the proximity of the 18th session of the Council. The Government responded to the questions of the High Commissioner and provided information concerning the measures taken to deal with the events. It was regrettable that the report of the High Commissioner did not reflect these inputs. The report and its sources discredited the professionalism of the High Commissioner. It included statements which misconstrued the truth, including the mentioning of crimes of war and against humanity, reflecting the view of States hostile to Syria. This constituted an attempt to terrorize the country and wage war against it. Syria continued to be subject to an unprecedented campaign directed at influencing its domestic politics, cause sectarian strife and portray the massacres perpetrated by armed gangs as a movement of peaceful demonstrations calling for reform and democracy. This was far from the truth. How was it possible to explain that more than 600 members of the armed forces had died; how could the destruction of government institutions and of private property be explained? The Government had lifted the emergency law, abolished the Supreme State Security Court, issued amnesty orders and set up a committee for national dialogue which held consultations with politicians, intellectuals, activists and representatives of civil society, the release of prisoners who had not committed crimes punishable by law, and decrees on general elections, local administration and the media.

Lies had been disseminated concerning events in Latakia, gangs in the region terrorized and threatened the inhabitants of the region, setting up mines on the streets. It was only natural that security forces intervened to protect citizens, as in many other countries; security forces had retreated after restoring order. However, mass media reported shelling and destruction of the city to promote sedition. These were lies disseminated by parties well known by their hostility to Syria with the objective of slowing down reforms and destabilizing the country and interfering in its internal affairs; they were also aimed at damaging the unity of the nation and these attempts constituted a flagrant violation of international law. Those countries which called for this special session had drafted an unprecedented resolution and had put pressure on many countries to support this draft resolution. They had become convinced that they were in a second Security Council in Geneva. All had seen the effects of these false reports in the economies and the lives of their citizens. The language used in the draft resolution was hateful and unknown to the Human Rights Council. If this resolution were adopted it would send a message of violence. The resolution would only cause the crisis to lengthen. Syria was committed to moving forward with the reforms as these were important and not as an act of submission to external pressure. The world would soon witness the effects of the reforms in order to ensure a bright future for the Syrian people. In conclusion, Syria was ready to receive the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights commission of inquiry, as soon as the independent Syrian judiciary completed its work.

Statements by Member States

CEZARY LUSINSKI (Poland on behalf of the European Union) said the whole world was following with shock and dismay the tragic developments in the Syrian Arab Republic. Reports of thousands of people being killed and many more forced to leave their homes could not remain unaddressed. We must react in a timely manner to gross human rights violations and suffering of people. The international community must step in and take action in an interactive and timely manner. In the last few weeks hundreds of people had been killed in a series of atrocities. Military operations had used tanks and heavy weapons against civilians, notably in the cities of Homs, Hama, Latakia and others. Further casualties and new refugees were reported after the Palestinian camp of al-Ramal was attacked. They could not remain silent. The Syrian authorities were waging a brutal campaign against their own people. They urged Syria to immediately end the gross human rights violations including excessive use of force against protestors, killing of protestors, torture and ill
treatment of detainees and enforced disappearances. They shared the concerns contained in the High Commissioner’s report that these violations may amount to crimes against humanity. Brutal repression must be stopped, detained prisoners released and unfettered access granted to international humanitarian and human rights organizations and the media, as all these alleged grave human rights violations constituted a blatant breach of Syria’s obligations under international law. Despite numerous requests from the international community, the Syrian authorities hadn’t introduced reforms. The European Union expressed deep regret over the fact that the Mission dispatched by the Office of the High Commissioner was not granted access to Syria. They reiterated their calls for the Syrian authorities to fully cooperate with Office of the High Commissioner. They stressed the need for an international, transparent and independent investigation into these allegations so perpetrators could be held accountable. In this context the European Union had tabled a resolution to investigate violations of international human rights law in Syria. They hoped the Council adopted the draft resolution by consensus to send a strong message to the Syrian authorities and the Syrian people.

LAURA MIRACHIAN (Italy), said that, despite the fact that not all the facts were clear and fully documented, it was understood that peaks of intolerable violence and violations of human rights had been reached. Violence and violations were still going on. Massive protests and demonstrations were happening in the streets and they were massively crushed. Italy could not but reiterate the strongest condemnation of the indiscriminate violence against civilians and massive human rights violations and the call to put an immediate end to the unacceptable harm caused to the Syrian people. Italy deplored that the Syrian authorities had so far refused to comply with resolution S-16/1. Italy renewed calls for the release all those arbitrarily arrested in connection with peaceful demonstrations, as well as political prisoners and human rights defenders and to grant unimpeded access to international humanitarian agencies, human rights organizations and the media. Italy supported the sending of an independent International Commission of Inquiry to conduct a full investigation on all alleged violations, with the aim of identifying and holding accountable those responsible for the crimes. The speaker reiterated the call for an inclusive national dialogue and a credible process of reforms, for which respect of political opponents’ rights and their freedom of expression and assembly was the necessary condition. Italy was confident that the Human Rights Council would send a unified message underlying the common resolve to uphold human rights and rule of law in Syria.

SIHASAK PHUANGKETKEOW (Thailand) said that they share a sense of great concern over the downward spiral of events in Syria. In the face of such a crisis situation it is incumbent upon the council to react in a timely and decisive manner. The Syrian Arab Republic must heed the calls of the international community. They called for an immediate end to the acts of violence against those peaceful protestors, which only lead to more violence and discord. Just as it was the responsibility of the Council to give strong voice to their concern, they had a responsibility to keep the door of engagement open, and for it to be meaningful it must be a two-way street. The government of Syria must now pursue in earnest a path of dialogue and reforms. Thailand called on the authorities in Syria to hold the perpetrators accountable. Thailand’s overriding concern was the growing humanitarian crisis, but more must be done in the long term including allowing the fact-finding mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights access. They must consider how best to lend support to the people of Syria in their call for change. The outcome must be for the people of Syria to decide for themselves; it was therefore imperative that their undertaking today enhance trust and confidence in the ability of the council to deal with all human rights challenges wherever they occurred. The strength of their message depended on them achieving strong consensus and unity of purpose.

JURG LAUBER (Switzerland), said that events in many parts of the world had shown that people’s aspirations for rights and freedom could not be contained, particularly not through violence. The use of indiscriminate violence against populations demanding freedom was illegal, inadmissible and undermined the credibility and legitimacy of the governments pursuing it. The number of dead and wounded among the population resulting from excessive use of force was shocking. Switzerland condemned the violations of human rights that had taken place in Syria since March and demanded that Syrian authorities halt the violence. Switzerland appealed to Syria to allow open access to its territory by humanitarian organizations and to cooperate with the competent United Nations bodies, in particular, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the commission of inquiry that would be established today. Switzerland called upon Syria to allow access to international media, abolish censorship of information and restore access to internet and telecommunications. Perpetrators of human rights violations should be brought to justice. It was thus important that independent inquiries were opened in order to determine the exact circumstances of these cases of violence and to identify its authors.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that it shared the widespread concern about the lack of progress in Syria since the last special session and the escalation in recent weeks. They expressed condolences to the many victims and their families, and said that the Syrian authorities must act quickly to end the violence, bloodshed and return the situation to normalcy without delay, by lifting the state of emergency, abolishing the Supreme State Security Court, establishing political parties, electing local governance bodies and holding parliamentary elections. They urged Syria to engage with the international communities and said that there was a need for an exclusive and Syrian-led political process, allowing for the full exercise of the fundamental freedoms of all the population. This should be carried out in full respect with the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country concerned and through close engagement and cooperation with that country. In conclusion, Indonesia continued to urge the Syrian authorities to ensure the safety of all its citizens and bring peace in the country.

HE YAFEI (China), said China was saddened by the violence taking place in Syria. China hoped that all parties in Syria could show restraint allowing dialogue and consultations that would prevent the violence from continuing. The future of Syria should be determined by its own people rather than by outside forces. The Syrian government was conducting reforms and China encouraged the government to continue with the reform process. The turmoil affecting countries in the Middle East and Africa was affecting their societies. Syria was an important country for the security and stability of the Middle East. Measures should be taken accordingly to restore public order in the country, in order to ensure the stability and security of the Middle East. This was the second time that the Council gathered to discuss the human rights situation in Syria. China hoped that by paying attention to the situation of Syria the Council could remain impartial.

BORJA MONTESINO (Spain) said that they aligned themselves with the statement given by the European Union. They strongly condemned the violence and actions to quell demonstrations in Syria which had led to the deaths of hundreds of people. Spain noted that the Syrian authorities had paid no heed to the Special Session of April and were now exercising even more serious violence against demonstrators and committing very serious human rights violations. They said that this reflected the powerlessness of the regime to meet the legitimate demands of its people. Spain would like to see an immediate end to the bloodshed and suffering and said that the legitimacy of any government was based upon their respect of their citizens’ human rights. Spain hoped that this session of the Human Rights Council would have adequate follow-up over the coming weeks.

FERNANDO ROJAS SAMANEZ (Peru), said that Peru deplored the deaths of civilians and condemned the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations and urged the Syrian government to seek a democratic solution to this crisis. The mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights did not receive cooperation from the Syrian government during its fact-finding mission and the reforms announced by the Syrian government have not progressed as expected. The Council could not remain passive in the face of the seriousness of this matter; this was why Peru had supported the call for this special session. It was indispensable that all parties would put and end to violent acts to avoid the loss of lives. This should be followed by a comprehensive political dialogue that took into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, full respect for human rights and freedoms, and in accordance with the principles and goals of the United Nations. Peru urged the Syrian authorities to allow humanitarian organizations and workers access to the country in order to alleviate the suffering of affected people and called upon the Syrian government to cooperate with the Council and the commission of inquiry to be established in order to bring to justice those responsible.

PEDRO OYARCE (Chile) said that the important trans-regional support for this Special Session, and the multiple statements showed that massive violations of human rights could not be met with indifference. It also showed that they needed full cooperation and constructive dialogue with the human rights system as a whole. Chile was shaken by and strongly condemned the human rights violations, including against freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and freedom of demonstration. Chile said they supported the fact-finding mission, with no conditions and as soon as possible so that the perpetrators of these acts did not remain unpunished and they could identify the humanitarian needs of the people of Syria. They hoped the people of Syria, through dialogue with the international community, could build conditions for peace, security and democracy that allowed the universal exercise of human rights.

MANUEL B. DENGO (Costa Rica), said that this meeting was of fundamental importance. Costa Rica reaffirmed its commitment to the protection of human rights and the immediate response to human rights violations anywhere in the world, without double standards and avoiding politicization. The Council should send a strong message about the unacceptable violations of human rights and international law taking place in Syria. Human rights were a tool to solve differences. The Council should provide a clear response condemning the violence. It was important to protect the civilian population and voices and calls for change could not be met with violence. The Council should send a strong signal to Damascus concerning its commitments to international mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights. A consensus would be important in a situation like this. However, the absence of a consensus should not weaken the message. Procedures should not be used to shield systematic violations of human rights. Costa Rica considered the language of the draft resolution reasonable and balanced and supported it with the conviction that this decision could play a preventive role in the context of new violent actions against the civilian population in Syria.

HARRIET E. BERG (Norway) said that international community was increasingly concerned about use of violence against protestors, the lack of medical assistance for the wounded and the imprisonment of opposition protestors. Political leaders who used force lost legitimacy. President Assad had now lost the legitimacy to rule the country and must step aside. Over 2,000 people, including children, had now been killed and more had been injured. Norway called for an immediate end to the violence and for all steps to meet the demands of the population. The situation continued to deteriorate and they urged the Syrian regime to allow access for humanitarian aid. The use of deadly force against peaceful protestors was entirely unacceptable and in breach of the government’s human rights obligations. Their actions may amount to crimes against humanity, and those responsible must be held accountable. They called for an independent commission of enquiry to investigate human rights abuses in Syria since July 2011. Norway supported people’s right to live in a society where all human rights, including civil and political rights, were safeguarded. They said that they believed freedom of expression and assembly was a precondition for sustainable development and prosperity. Norway urged the Human Rights Council to send a strong and united
message to Syria that they must uphold the rights of their people.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN DONAHOE (United States), condemned in the strongest terms the ongoing slaughter and callous brutality unleashed by the Assad regime against the Syrian people. The Syrian government’s abuses had been condemned by leaders in the region and from every region of the world. Increasingly, the international community was speaking with one voice to denounce the Syrian’s regime horrific violence. The human rights situation in Syria was extremely grave and deteriorating. The death toll continued to rise and regime security forces continued to engage in house-to-house raids, mass arrests, and the torture of prisoners. There were credible reports of detainees being tortured to death and of bodies returned to families bearing signs of torture. The United States deplored Assad’s campaign of ever-increasing brutality and terror against unarmed innocents, which may amount to crimes against humanity, and welcomed the recent report of the fact-finding mission called by the Council on 29 April. Today, the Council should take firmer actions to halt the ongoing crackdown against the Syrian people. The United States supported the call for an international, transparent, independent and prompt investigation into alleged violations of international human rights law by Syrian authorities. It was time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny and the United States would continue to stand firmly on their side.

DHARAR ABDUL-RAZZAK RAZZOOQI (Kuwait) said they were among the early States that showed a clear and transparent position on the issue of holding a Special Session on human rights in Syria. They expressed deep sorrow over the ongoing bloodshed of the people of Syria, and called for dialogue and a political solution and urged implementation of genuine reforms, foregoing the security option to reestablish security and stability. The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) had issued a declaration over the deteriorating situation in the Syrian Arab Republic and expressed deep concern. Kuwait stressed the importance of respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria and said they supported the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry tasked with investigating all the facts and circumstances and submitting a report thereof to the Council. Kuwait noted that the wrong decisions could lead to grave mistakes and consequently to catastrophic results.

AHMED FAHAD AI MAREK (Saudi Arabia), said that it had previously clearly expressed its position. What was going on in Syria could not be accepted nor justified. Saudi Arabia had called for a halt to the bloodshed and called on Syria to refrain from violence and protect the sanctity of human live. Saudi Arabia hoped that this session would contribute to the improvement of the situation in Syria, preventing the further loss of life, and wished that a consensus formula for the draft resolution could be reached.

VALEMIY LOSHINIA (Russian Federation) said that the situation was of grave concern, especially because the country was a key point in the region. It was unfortunate that civilians were still being killed by military personnel and police. There was a need to resolve the range of problems in the country in the legal field through dialogue and cooperation. They must avoid only seeing one side. The opposition had declined to have a dialogue, but at the same time it was well known
how harsh some governments had been to restore order to their cities. The delegations reminded the floor that this was the second session and it must be noted that after the first session that the Syrian government adopted several reforms, including steps to abolish the state of emergency in the country and an attempt to amend the constitution. Clearly implementing these reforms would take a certain amount of time. The Russian Federation was convinced that a resolution must be carried out by the Syrians themselves without interference from outside and the Human Rights Council must assist them in that regard. The international community must help and the Russian Federation called on all sides to join in this process. Syria must accelerate urgent reforms and the Russian Federation could see that the Syrian authorities were prepared to take energetic measures to implement that.

HASHIM OTHMAN (Malaysia), said Malaysia remained concerned at the situation which continued to unfold in Syria. Reports on the use of indiscriminate violence and disproportionate use of force against protestors and civilians, including women and children, were of particular concern and were unacceptable. Malaysia called upon all sides to exercise maximum restraint, refrain from reprisals and to fully respect the rule of law and all human rights. Efforts must be exerted to end violence and impunity as well as ensure the accountability of perpetrators. Malaysia noted the commitment expressed by the Syrian government to undertake institutional and legal reforms and urged it to intensify efforts in actually implementing such measures. At the same time, Malaysia urged all sides to undertake transparent and inclusive course of action aimed at resuming peaceful and serious dialogue, national reconciliation and the political process for all Syrians. Malaysia noted the need to convey a united and clear message of support and solidarity for the promotion and protection of human rights of all people.

UMUNNA HUMPHREY ORJIAKO (Nigeria) said that it considered the allegations of grave human rights violations being committed by the Syrian authorities as condemnable and called upon the Syrian Government to immediately halt further violations and release all peaceful protestors who had been arbitrarily detained. Nigeria encouraged Syria to cooperate with to enable it to carry out its mission successfully without any restrictions. Nigeria also called on the Syrian Government to facilitate access for humanitarian groups. The speaker said any action necessary must be taken to prevent further loss of life and they encouraged the Syrian Authorities to guarantee the protection and security of all citizens as well as the international agencies and non-governmental organizations working in Syria to ensure that the necessary assistance was provided to all those in need.

PETER GUSCHELBAUER (Austria) said they fully aligned themselves with the statement made by Poland on behalf of the European Union. They called for this second Special Session because they were concerned about how the situation in Syria had deteriorated. The use of heavy weapons by the Syrian State in various cities across the country was unacceptable and may amount to crimes against humanity. Austria urged the Syrian leadership to respect its international human rights obligations. The indiscriminate violence against unarmed civilian protestors must be stopped. Austria urged Syria to release all prisoners and fully cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. To secure a peaceful and democratic future for the people of Syria, full respect of human rights must begin. Austria was disappointed that the fact-finding mission was prevented from entering the country and called upon the Council to establish a new mission.

KHALID AL-HAJRI (Qatar), thanked the Council for convening the session following the events unfolding since March. Qatar expressed deep concern with events taking place in Syria, lamented the loss of life of civilians and emphasized the need to legally protect the lives of civilians, in particular women and children. Qatar urged Syria to halt the bloodshed and the use of force against civilians and implement reforms that responded to the legitimate demands of the population. They remained confident that dialogue and reform remained the only way out of the crisis.

TOMAS HUSAK (Czech Republic), welcomed the convening of another Special Session on the human rights situation in Syria in support of the submitted draft resolution. They also welcomed the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and expressed deep concern with the lack of cooperation of the Syrian government. Czech Republic remained concerned by human rights violations committed by state security forces and remained alarmed by the number of victims amidst the civilian population, including children. The Syrian authorities should immediately put an end to human rights violations, free prisoners of consciousness, stop the use of military force, and perform real and credible reforms. The regime had lost its credibility and in the best interest of its population it should step aside. Czech Republic supported the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the violation of human rights in Syria; perpetrators should be held accountable.

ANGELA MARIA CHAVEZ (Guatemala), said that the Council should deal with situations in which human rights violations took place without distinction. Guatemala supported the convening of this second Special Session on Syria, deplored the loss of human lives and called upon the Syrian government to uphold its obligations under international law and protect the lives of the civilian population. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms must be restored in the country; an immediate end should be put to the disproportionate use of force against the civilian population; and reforms should be quickly implemented. The facts concerning alleged human rights violations should be established and those responsible should be brought to account. Guatemala supported the establishment of a commission of inquiry to take on these tasks as proposed by the draft resolution introduced to the Council.

MOTHUSI B.R. PALAI (Botswana) said that in April 2011 the Human Rights Council passed a resolution on the Syrian Arab Republic and expressed deep regret about the deteriorating human rights situation. The Council was hopeful that the situation would improve, but four months later there was little evidence this had happened. On the contrary, there had been loss of life, curtailment of the freedoms of expression and assembly, arbitrary detentions and intolerance towards political plurality. Furthermore, engagement with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights had not been allowed into the country. The people of Syria looked to this Council for redemption.

HUGO BRAUWERS (Belgium), paid tribute to the Syrian people who had risked their lives by continuing to peacefully demonstrate for democratic reforms in spite of the disproportionate use of force by Syrian military and security forces. Belgium regretted that Syria had not granted access to the fact-finding mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights despite repeated requests. The human rights situation in Syria had deteriorated since the convening of the first Special Session and the fact-finding mission had found a pattern of human rights violations that constituted widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population. Belgium was shocked to learn that children had not only been targeted by security forces and had been repeatedly subjected to the same human rights and criminal violations as adults, including torture. Belgium deplored that the Syrian authorities kept on violating their international human rights obligations, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and strongly condemned the summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment committed in the brutal campaign by the Syrian authorities against its own population. Considering the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in Syria, Belgium strongly supported the establishment of a commission of inquiry as provided for in the draft resolution.

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said that the situation was being manipulated by some aspects of the media and foreign press and that human rights were not the true motivation for this Special Session. Cuba said that instead the true objectives of countries, including Israel and the United States, were to bring about regime change in Syria and to change the map of the region. Cuba did not agree with the alleged protection of human lives becoming a pretext for foreign intervention. The process that led to what was now occurring in Libya began in this very same Human Rights Council. Cuba said that if the Human Rights Council was so concerned, why did they not call a meeting to investigate the actions of NATO in Afghanistan, the actions of Israel or the abductions of persons who had been arrested without due course and were now being tortured in the illegal detention centre of Guantanamo? Cuba went on to say that there had been precedents that had been created in recent cases in which the United Nations Charter itself had been manipulated. They expressed their categorical rejection of anything that violated the sovereignty of Syria. Cuba said the international community should help to safeguard peace and security in this member country and not exacerbate it. Cuba was confident Syria could resolve their internal problems without outside interference.

JUAN JOSE GOMEZ CAMACHO (Mexico), said that the Council met with a sense of urgency and deep concern to address the situation in Syria. Reports revealed the deployment of tanks and security forces intensifying repression, while the alarming number of executions, forced disappearances, acts of torture and arbitrary detentions increased. The Council was sending a message of solidarity and support to the Syrian population as it sought change through pacific means. Mexico strongly condemned the attacks against the Syrian population and called upon the Syrian government to immediately halt the increasing violence and to privilege an inclusive dialogue. Power did not belong to governments, but to those governed. The refusal to grant access to the fact-finding mission was inadmissible and therefore, more than ever, it was important to ensure the fulfillment of the objectives for which it was created. In this regard, Mexico supported the creation of an independent commission of inquiry in order to objectively investigate the atrocities committed and hold those responsible accountable.

GABRIELA CONSTANTINESCU (Romania) regretted that the mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had not received cooperation from the Syrian government. Romania expressed great concern at the use of military force and of the 2,000 plus victims, and reports of more killings over the past two days. Romania thought that the legitimate considerations of the Syrian people for reform must be met and the Syrian authorities must fulfill their obligations under human rights law. Romania called on Syrian authorities to fully cooperate with the Human Rights Council.

IRUTHISHAM ADAM (Maldives), said that it was unfortunate that since the adoption of the resolution S-16/1, the Syrian authorities had intensified their campaign of repression against civilians. Violence committed against children was unacceptable, including violations against Islamic values and international law. Syria had not taken any steps to comply with the resolution nor cooperated with the fact-finding mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Notwithstanding Syria’s cooperation with the mission, it had been able to collect important evidence. The Maldives was deeply disturbed by the evidence that systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity. Maldives called on the Syrian authorities to immediately cease all violence against civilians, and to begin a serious process of democratic and human rights reform. If the government did not, then it was time for President Bashar al-Assad and his government to step aside.

GLORIA GANGIE (India) said that the situation in Syria posed a serious challenge to stability in the country and deep ramifications for the region and beyond. India urged Syria to exercise restraint, abjure violence and pay heed to the aspirations of its people. India hoped that the Syrian government expedited the reform measures it had announced and would be more responsive to the concerns expressed by the international community. India welcomed Syria’s acceptance of the visit of the UN humanitarian mission and President Assad’s message to the UN Secretary-General that all military operations had ceased. The Human Rights Council should concentrate on the issue of human rights rather than pronounce on political and other issues. The Human Rights Council must be perceived as being even-handed by dealing with similar situations in a similar fashion and be guided by prudence rather than strategic expediency. India went on to say that there were reports of the flow of arms into Syria and the Syrian Security forces had themselves suffered heavy casualties. The Syrian government had pointed out that among the 1,900 dead over 650 security forces were numbered in the casualties. India mentioned reports of attacks on minorities and acts of gruesome violence by extremist elements, which need to be condemned. India concluded by saying that that they would support all measures to restore peace in Syria by encouraging all sides to abjure violence in any form and resolve grievances through peaceful means.

Statements by Observer States

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France), said that the Syrian regime had engaged for months in a policy of repression against its people in violation of human rights. The international community had called upon the Syrian regime to renounce violence. The Syrian government had ignored these appeals and intensified repression; the denial to allow the mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to access its territory was a sign of this. It was essential that the Council send a strong signal condemning the repression and calling for the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry. France supported the proposals put forward by the report of the Office of the High Commissioner, in particular, suggesting the Security Council consider referring the current situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. France appealed to the Council to adopt the draft resolution.

REINHARD SCHWEPPE (Germany) condemned the brutal campaign President Assad was waging against his own people, and said that the killings and imprisonment were unacceptable and must be stopped immediately. They went on to say that President Assad had lost legitimacy among the Syrian people and must step aside. Germany appreciated the position taken by the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as by Syria’s neighboring countries. Germany joined calls for all perpetrators to be brought to justice and said that the international community must live up to its responsibilities. The Human Rights Council must react when such appalling events take place and identify what strong measures could be put in place. Germany greatly appreciated the broad cross-regional support for their initiative in convening this Special Session, despite not currently being a member of the Human Rights Council, and urged members of the Council to condemn the brutal crackdown in Syria by endorsing unanimously the resolution before them.

SANG-KI PARIS (Republic of Korea), expressed deep concern over the large number of civilian casualties incurred by the Syrian government’s continued use of force against peaceful protesters over the past months. The Republic of Korea strongly condemned the Syrian’s government excessive use of force and human rights abuses against civilians and further called upon the government to immediately cease its use of force and to investigate all these brutalities and bring those responsible to account. In this regard, the Republic of Korea considered this Special Session to be timely and appropriate and hoped that it would provide an opportunity for the international community to deliver a clear and unified message that the excessive use of force against civilians could not be justified for any reason and under any situation. The Republic of Korea noted with deep concern the findings of the fact-finding mission concerning widespread and systematic attacks by the Syrian government since mid-March and expressed support for the creation of an independent and transparent international commission of inquiry with a view to investigating all cases of human rights violations, including those which could constitute crimes against humanity, and they expected the outcome of this Special Session to play a meaningful part in the further consideration of the issue by the Security Council.

BOUDEWIJN J. VAN EENENNAAM (Netherlands) said that the Netherlands aligned itself with the statement by Poland on behalf of the European Union and supported the resolution. The Netherlands were deeply concerned and sent their deepest sympathy and respect to the people of Syria. The speaker said they believed that the Syrian Government and President Assad had lost legitimacy and the time had come for them to step aside. The Syrian Government hadn’t cooperated with the requests for investigations into the violations of human rights law as well as the humanitarian situation from the international community.

YAPRAK ALP (Turkey), said that Turkey was gravely concerned with the unfolding developments in Syria. Turkey wished to see peace, security and stability restored in Syria through the realization of the legitimate aspirations of the people. Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly must not only be recognized but actually implemented. Only then could the overtures towards political change and democratic transformation be meaningful. On the other hand, to be credible, words and deeds must match each other. Turkey would continue to stand by the Syrian people for the realization of their legitimate aspirations.

SARDJA SIRISMA (Sri Lanka) said that adequate consideration must be given to the capacity-building needs of the State concerned and there must be elimination of double standards and politicization. The Human Rights Council must engage with the State for the promotion and protection of human rights. Any action from this session must not affect civilians, and it was regrettable that resolutions adopted from this body in the past had affected civilians. Sri Lanka thought the draft resolution did little to embark on a path of cooperation and said they firmly believed a home-grown response was the best solution and urged all parties to contribute to improved conditions on the ground.

Mr. G. CORR (Ireland), said that for many months the Syrian authorities had waged a war on their own people. The most basic tenets of international human rights law had been repeatedly and shamefully violated by the Syrian authorities. This session was an expression of solidarity with the people of Syria. The Syrian government could have taken the path of dialogue. It could have heeded the calls of the Council in April. It could have cooperated with the fact-finding mission. It could have listened to the peaceful demands of its own people. The Syrian people had shown extraordinary courage and valor in the face of an unrelenting onslaught from their own Government. Ireland strongly welcomed the report of the fact-finding mission and emphasized the importance of its recommendation to immediately put an end to the gross human rights violations, including the excessive use of force against demonstrators and the killing of protestors, torture and ill treatment and of enforced disappearance. This should be the central message of the Council to Syria today.

PAUL WILSON (Australia) said that credible reports estimated that 2,000 people had been killed since March and thousands more had been injured or detained. There had been a consistent pattern of violence against unarmed protestors and protestors seeking medical assistance. There had been indiscriminate firing on civilians, including children, by security forces and the use of tanks, heavy machines, guns and helicopters in urban areas. The speaker said they had received shocking images from courageous people in Syria. Australia called on President Assad to step down so the people of Syria could engage in peaceful political activity and have a chance to determine their own future. Australia would ask the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative on Syria to report on developments. Australia also called for Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court and supported calls for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of human
rights in Syria since March. The international community must send a strong message to the Syrian regime: the violence must stop and human rights must be respected.

RUI VASCONCELLOS (Brazil), deplored the use of force against the civilian population. All allegations of human rights violations should be investigated in an independent and transparent manner and those responsible for the violence should be brought to justice. Only the end of violence and repression would allow for political dialogue and the establishment of an effective political dialogue and of a democratic state in Syria. Brazil called upon all parties to engage fully in the process of political reforms. A democratic, all-inclusive and Syrian-led political process was the path to a peaceful and durable solution to the current crisis. Brazil reiterated its call for the Syrian government to allow a mission from the Office of the High Commissioner to take place in accordance to resolution S-16/1. Brazil viewed with great concern the content of the advance version of the report circulated by the fact-finding mission. While acknowledging the written responses provided by the Syrian authorities, Brazil regretted that the mission was not allowed access to the country and urged the Syrian government to reconsider its position and grant full access to the members of the mission.

HISHAM BADR (Egypt) said that the current situation in Syria required swift action to prevent it reaching a point of no return, and before consequences spilled over into the whole region. Martyrs were falling on a daily basis and an immediate ceasefire was needed now to restore the loss of confidence and to establish a national dialogue with all members of Syrian society. Based on Egypt’s commitments since January 25 they were committed to helping prevent bloodshed. The lessons learned in recent months in other areas of the Arab region highlighted two facts: the security solutions were no longer useful, and the responsible authorities must take the initiative and swiftly move to realize the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for democracy and reform. Egypt concluded by giving full confidence to the Syrian people to display customary national spirit and confidence.

LUCY RICHARDSON (New Zealand), deeply regretted that since the previous special session the situation in Syria had deteriorated. The report of the Council’s fact-finding mission contained a catalogue of gross abuses that had been perpetuated against the Syrian people, who, in peaceful protests, had been attempting to exercise their fundamental human rights. The Syrian authorities had assumed obligations by becoming party to most of the core United Nations human rights instruments and by agreeing at the 2005 World Summit that States had a responsibility to protect their citizens. New Zealand stood in solidarity with the Syrian people, who would determine the future of their country. Economic enfranchisement, human rights and democracy would be part of the future trajectory of the region. The Syrian authorities could not halt this tide through abuse and brutality.

AHARON LESHNO-YAAR … (Israel) said Israel had watched with shock and great concern the horrific news relentlessly coming from Syria. They said they had watched the relentless trampling of freedoms, the unjust murder of innocent citizens and the pathetic attempts of the regime to avoid its most basic responsibilities of protecting the lives and safety of its own citizens. Israel saluted the defiance of so many Syrians who stood up for their rights despite the dangers, the repression and the mass murder. Israel hoped Syrians would soon enjoy individual freedoms, adhere to the rule of law and give hope to all concerned. As a neighbor of Syria, Israel believed positive changes there would improves relations across the border, throughout their region and lead to a future for Syrians that would most certainly include freedom, peace and prosperity.

ALISON LECLAIRE CHRISTIE (Canada), said that the leadership of Syria had further escalated attacks by its security forces on unarmed civilians peacefully demonstrating for democracy and human rights. Their callous brutality amounted to a campaign of terror against the Syrian people. Canada extended its condolences to the families of the victims and stood in solidarity with the Syrian people. The report of the fact-finding mission documented a disturbing pattern of human rights violations, including torture and enforced disappearances, as well as widespread attacks on Syria’s civilian population. Canada reiterated its call for President Assad to step aside and for Syria’s leaders to immediately cease the military operation against its own population and all attacks on human rights defenders. Canada urged the Council to unanimously adopt the draft resolution. The establishment of a commission of inquiry would be a crucial step in the efforts of the international community to hold accountable those responsible for gross and systematic violations of human rights in Syria.

GANCHO GANEV (Bulgaria) said that the level of force was inadmissible, and they called on the Syrian authorities to immediately cease the violence and begin a dialogue. Despite outstanding efforts by many international mediators, the Syrian regime had continued with the policy of repression rather than dialogue, leading to a loss of legitimacy nationally and internationally. Bulgaria called on Syria to immediately cease all acts of violence, to ensure proper protection of their population, to fully comply with their obligations under international law, to release all arbitrarily detained persons and to cease further illegal arrests. Bulgaria urged the Syrian Authorities to grant access to independent observers, media and humanitarian workers to all regions of concern in the country. They went on to say that they supported a commission of inquiry into the violations and the most appropriate mechanism for an independent investigation so perpetrators were held accountable.

SO SE PYONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), welcomed the steps taken by the Syrian government towards political reform. These steps should be encouraged. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the politicization of the issue. Human rights violations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine were being ignored. Political pressure under the pretext of human rights should not be accepted. Respect for the principle of sovereignty and independence were important. The Council should live up to its ideals of objectivity and impartiality.

URSKA CAS SVETEK (Slovenia) expressed Slovenia’s satisfaction with the broad cross-regional support shown in the Council. They said that until this weekend Syria had been denying access to the fact-finding mission, so Slovenia ask Syria to grant access to any independent enquiry the Human Rights Council may set up. Slovenia strongly condemned the brutal force the Syrian authorities had used, despite assurances given to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. They called for the immediate cessation of all human rights violations and reminded Syrian authorities that they were responsible for the well-being of the Syrian people. They concluded by saying that that the Human Rights Council must send a strong message to the Syrian Authorities that human rights violations would not be tolerated.

MOHAMMAD REZA GHAEBI (Iran), expressed concern with the situation in Syria and the deaths of civilians and security forces. They also expressed concern with the violations of human rights and the use of violence by all sides, and called for an immediate end to all violence. Iran was of the view that those responsible for the violence, including terrorist groups, should be held accountable. The international community should fully respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria. Any attempts to create precedents for policies of interference in the internal affairs of States on insubstantial grounds of humanitarian concerns were against the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter. The only solution to the current crisis in Syria was through an inclusive and Syria-led political process. Iran encouraged the implementation of the announced reforms by the Syrian government. Holding a Special Session on the human rights situation in Syria should not be used as a pretext to open the backdoor for creating new precedents for selectively misusing specific country situations to address narrow political interests.

GERMAN MUNDARAIN HERNANDEZ (Venezuela) said that from the beginning Venezuela had condemned violence as a way to solve conflict and they were afraid this conflict would get worse. They believed terrorists and mercenaries were joining the conflicts, and the aim of the Western powers was to intervene in Syria and take its abundant natural resources. Syria had established a program of reform and promised elections for February, released some prisoners, as well as other measures. Western powers were interfering in sovereign matters and the Human Rights Council must respect the rights of sovereign nations to resolve their own internal issues.

KENICHI SUGANUMA (Japan), condemned the use of violence against civilians and called for the immediate halt of such activities. Japan had been calling upon the Syrian government to listen to the wishes of its people and the voices of the international community and immediately cease the use of force against civilians. Japan supported the creation of an international investigation mechanism of the Human Rights Council and urged Syria to cooperate.

IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) said that the brutal crackdown in Syria had continued unabated for more than five months. Credible reports put the figure of those killed at 2,000, but the sad reality was that no one knew the accurate figure. In the past weeks the violence had become even more massive with tanks and warships indiscriminately attacking the population. Sweden noted that these attacks may amount to crimes against humanity. The Syrian people had spoken; they wanted the freedom to which they were entitled, but it was obvious that their freedom would not be guaranteed by the current regime. Therefore, President Assad and his regime had to step aside in Syria. Sweden noted and welcomed the broad support for today’s Special Session and welcomed a strong resolution that established a commission of inquiry into the events in Syria.

VETURLIDI THOR STEFANSSON (Iceland), expressed its regret for the deaths of many hundreds of people and condemned the authorities in Syria for the violence and atrocities committed by Syrian security forces against their own people, mass arrests and torture. Iceland considered the actions of the authorities in Syria to be a serious violation of international human rights obligations and a cruel attack on the rightful demands of the Syrian public for reforms and democratic development. Iceland supported calls for president Bashar al-Assad to resign and clear the way for the demands of the Syrian people for more democracy and freedom. Iceland insisted that the Syrian authorities put an immediate end to violence and release those who had been detained as prisoners of conscience. Iceland urged the members of the Council to condemn the shocking use of force in Syria and to send a strong message in defence of human rights. The Syrian authorities had ignored appeals by the United Nations Security Council to end human rights violations. It was high time that the Syrian authorities did so.

PETER GOODERHAM (United Kingdom) said the United Kingdom supported the statement given by Poland on behalf of the European Union, and noted that the situation in Syria had deteriorated dramatically. The violent repression of citizens exercising their right to peaceful protest was completely unacceptable and must stop immediately. They welcomed the High Commissioner’s briefing and publication of the fact-finding mission’s report, which provided clear evidence of the Syrian Government’s gross violations including torture, arbitrary detention, murder and enforced disappearance. There could be no impunity for those who had committed such gross human rights violations. The appropriate response should be reform and not repression, as this was the only way long-term stability could be achieved in Syria. The Assad regime had utterly failed utterly in this regard. Accountability was not just about judicial processes; it was also about enabling independent monitors, including lawyers, journalists and other human rights defenders and the Syrian authorities must stop restricting their activity. They must respect the right to freedom of expression. Access must also be granted to humanitarian agencies and actors. The violence in Syria must stop now. The Syrian people’s legitimate demands had to be recognized, they had a right to liberty, dignity and to freely choose their own leaders. The United Kingdom urged all members of the Council to support the resolution and send a clear signal to the Syrian authorities that they could not continue to repress their people unchecked. This Council must ensure further independent monitoring and investigation of the human rights situation in Syria so that those responsible could be held to account.

GRACA ANDRESEN GUIMARAES (Portugal), regretted that the Council had to address once again the situation of human rights violations in Syria. Portugal condemned the brutal repression and the violent crackdown of peaceful protests and the use of military force against an unarmed population. All detained protesters and human rights defenders must be released and free access should be given to international humanitarian and human rights organizations as well as the media. Portugal expressed dismay at the allegations of children being killed or wounded in security operations and welcomed the statement of the High Commissioner, her briefing to the Security Council, and the report of the fact-finding mission. Portugal remained committed, both in the Human Rights Council and the Security Council, to conveying a clear message and called on all members to adopt the resolution by consensus.

MARIA ULFF-MOLLER (Denmark) said that the Danish government strongly condemned the Syrian crackdown and urged the Syrian government to deliver its promised reforms without delay. As the Syrian government had failed to do so, Denmark urged President Assad to step aside. The speaker called upon the Syrian authorities to fully cooperate with the Human Rights Council’s special procedures. Denmark supported recommendations of the fact-finding mission regarding the killing of protestors, torture of detainees and enforced disappearances of citizens. The situation in Syria must remain on the agenda of the Human Rights Council.

Mr. R. MARTINEZ (Paraguay), said that considering the situation in Syria, they understood that any decision should be firmly sustained in the fundamental principles of international human rights law. The Council should pay attention to the follow up of results that might arise in the future. Paraguay emphasized the importance of cooperation with the special procedures and the Office of the High Commissioner for the ongoing process. Finally, Paraguay reiterated the urgent call for a dialogue among actors in order to guarantee the full respect for the rights of the Syrian people.

MOHAMED ALI ALHAKIM (Iraq) recognized the right of the Syrian people to democracy and elections and urged the Syrian Government to implement far reaching reforms that included the participation of all components of Syrian community. The speaker said that the current situation in their sister country of Syria required a peaceful transfer to stability and political, economic and social reforms. Syria’s acceptance of the humanitarian mission was a positive step. The mission must meet equally with officials and Syrian citizens in order to draw up a comprehensive report that was not only based on Syrians living outside Syria. Iraq firmly believed in an independent Syria with territorial sovereignty. Iraq supported all efforts made to ensure a national dialogue in Syria and efforts to draft a Syrian constitution that guaranteed Syrians’ right to democracy, and to end all acts of violence and hold those responsible to account. Measures must not be based on severe sanctions, which only hurt the people themselves, and Iraq drew the Council’s attention to the situations in Yemen and Bahrain as examples.

FEDOR ROSOCHA (Slovakia), condemned the acts of violence perpetrated against the population by the Syrian authorities. Such acts perpetrated by authorities against their own population exercising its legitimate civil and political rights under whatever pretext should never be tolerated and Slovakia strongly demanded that the United Nations system remains seized with the situation, including possible referral of the case to the International Criminal Court. Slovakia called upon the Syrian government to put an immediate end to any excessive use of force, harassment and intimidation against its citizens, to release all political prisoners and all those detained in conjunction with the protests since March 2011, providing for a genuine, credible, inclusive political dialogue leading to a sustainable democratic future of the country, paying fully respect to human rights and fundamental freedoms.

DANIJELA ZUNEC-BRANDT (Croatia) said that Croatia was deeply concerned about the continued suffering of the Syrian people and urged the Syrian authorities to immediately stop the gross human rights violations. As the recent report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights underlined, those violations may amount to crimes against humanity. Croatia called upon Syrian authorities to stop all acts of violence to permit a Syrian-led inclusive political process. It was the duty of the international community to step in when a State was failing to meet its responsibility to protect its population. Croatia supported the call for an international commission of inquiry and urged the Syrian Authorities to fully cooperate with all the Human Rights Council special procedures.

Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations

ELIAS KHOURI, of United Towns Agency for North South Cooperation, said in a joint statement that human rights should not provide a pretext for interventionary policies. The present campaign against Syria reminded them of what happened in Iraq after its occupation. Arguments had been used that had nothing to do with human rights or democracy. Syria had the right to defend its sovereignty, its independence and the security and dignity of its citizens. These principles should guide the Council.

RENATE BLOEM, of CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, in a joint statement with ANND, Arab NGO Network for Development, said that in the six months since the Syrian people asked for political freedoms over 3,000 had lost their lives and many more thousands had been injured, detained or fled as refugees. In the three and a half months since the first Special Session on Syria in April, they were aware of 1,900 civilians who had been killed by the regime since mid-March 2011. In the statement they asked for an immediate lift of the siege imposed on civilian towns without reprisals; the disclosure of identities of perpetrators of violence and aggression against the Syrians to hold them to account; referral of findings of the fact-finding mission to the International Criminal Court; immediate access of international media and independent human rights organizations; and a request for the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria.

NIDAL DARWISH, of, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said that a rapidly growing number of credible sources, including a recently released United Nations fact-finding mission report, confirmed that the widespread and systematic nature of rights violations being carried out by government forces in Syria appeared to constitute crimes against humanity. Ongoing demonstrations were repressed using lethal force. Thousands had become victims of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and enforced disappearance. Condemnation was no longer enough, the establishment of a commission of inquiry was a first step towards addressing these crimes with a view of achieving accountability.

RADWAN ZIADEH, of International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said that the number of people who had died in Syria this year is now 2,500, that people had been killed during protests and even during funerals, most often by snipers, and also killed through torture. Violence and crimes against humanity were also committed by the thugs, armed groups who had been seen attacking demonstrators and raiding homes. Finally, the speaker recommended the Human Rights Council refer the situation to the Security Council and the International Criminal Court and they said that leadership must be strongly demonstrated with regard to Syria.

GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Press Emblem Campaign, denounced the total absence of press of freedom in Syria. Besides the implementation of exceptional measures in force for ages, the legislation currently in force incorporated constitutive elements of systematic violation of freedoms and rights of the people of Syria. For decades, the state had exercised a monopoly over the Syrian media, in particular the press. The non-governmental organization requested that the Syrian government remove all restrictions on the exercise of journalism and the release of any journalists imprisoned for causes related to their profession, and to grant immediate access to the country to foreign journalists wanting to carry out assignments.

LAMA AL-ATASSI, of United Nations Watch recounted how inhabitants of the Syrian city Homs went out into live fire to claim their rights; citizens were told to go out and claim their freedom, and claim their dignity. They spoke to all countries here and in New York who had taken the side of the torturers and not the peaceful protestors: China, Russia, Egypt, Nigeria, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and Brazil. How could they justify the massacre of people, and ignore the rights of the Syrian people? How could they justify their position?

ALEX CONTE, of International Commission of Jurists, in a joint statement, regretted that the Council’s resolution at the earlier Special Session on Syria had fallen on deaf ears. There continued to be widespread unlawful killings, summary and extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and other violations to human rights. The report of the fact-finding mission found a pattern of widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population that may amount to crimes against humanity. Accountability for crimes under international law was paramount. The commission of inquiry should have as wide a mandate as possible to enable it to establish the facts and circumstances. Members should take concerted efforts to push for the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch noted the systematic pattern of repression by security forces in places like Daraa, Hama, and Homs. The pattern of human rights violations that constituted widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity. Despite the official lifting of the state of emergency, security forces had continued their arbitrary detention of peaceful protestors. Dozens had allegedly died in detention. Syrian security forces prevented medical personnel reaching wounded protestors and detained injured protestors from hospitals, as well as holding many incommunicado and subjecting many to torture on release, according to interviews with released detainees. Syrian authorities had justified their crackdown by saying they were battling armed fighters and terrorists. Human Rights Watch was concerned that neighbouring States Jordan and Lebanon should have fully cooperated with the fact-finding mission in order to allow the mission access to interview refugees on their territory who had fled Syria.

HELENE SACKSTEIN, of Reporters Without Borders, expressed support for the recommendations in the report of the fact finding commission and the recommendations made by Ms. Pillay at her briefing to the Security Council concerning referral to the International Criminal Court. The non-governmental organization stressed that the end of military operations did not represent the end of repression and emphasized the importance of sending a commission of inquiry in order to establish facts concerning allegations of human rights violations. Journalists played a crucial role in producing independent information and their right to freely circulate within Syrian territory should be respected.

RACHID MESLI, of Amman Center for Human Rights Studies said they wouldn’t repeat the tens of thousands of arbitrary detentions and cases of torture, but focus on the worst violations, to life. The Syrian Authorities continued to resort to excessive use of force against the Syrian population. Violence was happening on a daily basis and today the landmark of 2,000 deaths had been reached. International Criminal law, under the Statute of Rome, said that such killings constitute a crime against humanity.

PETER SPLINTER, of Amnesty International, said that the numbers of people killed and wounded, detained, tortured and disappeared had greatly increased since the Council’s last special session on Syria. It was now high time for the Council to respond decisively to the growing number of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Syrian authorities, by adopting measures that would send a clear signal to the Syrian leaders responsible that they would be held accountable individually for such crimes. The organization urged the Council to recommend the Security Council refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, freeze the assets abroad of President Bashar Al-Assad and his senior associates, and impose and an arms embargo on Syria.

RANIA MADI, of Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights noted that reports coming out of Syria painted a dire picture of the situation of Palestinian refugees in Latakia refugee camp, which had been hit by fire in the past few days. A number of Palestinians had been reported killed although lack of access meant the true figure couldnot be known. Badil was gravely concerned about the plight of Palestinian refugees in Latakia and called for immediate cessation of any attacks on the camp. Badil called on the Arab League, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the forthcoming United Nations humanitarian mission to Syria to establish a permanent committee, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization to take action and ensure protection of the Palestinian refugees’ human rights.

BIRO DIAWARA, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, welcomed the session and hoped that the discussion would send a strong message to the Syrian authorities and would force them to put an end to the massacres. The non-governmental organization remained in solidarity with the families of the victims and strongly condemned the violence exercised by the law enforcement agencies against the civilian population. What was happening in Syria could be called crimes against humanity. It was time for the Syrian authorities to fully cooperate with the commission of inquiry.

VIOLETTE DAGUERRE, of Arab Commission for Human Rights expressed deep concern over the disastrous human rights situation in Syria. The speaker said they had documented killings of thousands of pacifists, hundreds of victims of torture and the killing of wounded protestors by the military. They also had documents proving the killing of 160 children. Silence and a lack of action by the international community represented a form of complicity and encouraged crimes to take place. They called on the Human Rights Council to send a commission of inquiry as soon as possible into the field to explore what was happening and to put an end to the violence. They also called on the International Criminal Court to take action on the crimes against humanity that were happening in Syria.

LAZARO PARY, of Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, said that in Syria a confrontation was taking place between two factions and deplored the loss of life in the context of the conflict. The organization expressed its solidarity with the Syrian people in their struggle for independence. There was a civil war being fought by two factions, one of which aimed at upsetting the domestic order and Western countries were intervening in the domestic affairs of Syria. Domestic conflict should be resolved through national dialogue and negotiations. Finally the non-governmental organization condemned the attempt by Western powers to impose a neo-colonial order and denounced the involvement of NATO in Libya.

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For use of the information media; not an official record