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The Human Rights Council concludes its second special session on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

23 August 2011

Adopts resolution that requires the dispatch of a commission of inquiry

The Human Rights Council concluded its seventeenth Special Session, which was convened yesterday and was devoted to “the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic”. The Council adopted a resolution that requires an independent international commission of inquiry to be dispatched to the country to investigate all allegations of violations of international human rights law committed by the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011, to establish the facts and circumstances of these crimes and violations, and if possible to identify those responsible and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions.

In the resolution, the Council expressed deep concern at the findings of the fact-finding mission established by the Office of the High Commissioner pursuant to resolution S-16/1, adopted in April after the last Special Session on Syria. These findings included violations of human rights that could constitute crimes against humanity. The Council strongly condemned the serious, systematic and continuing human rights violations by Syrian authorities, including arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and deadly violence against protesters and human rights defenders, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and torture and ill-treatment of detainees, including children.

At the opening of the Special Session yesterday afternoon, Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the report of the fact-finding mission established by the High Commissioner at the request of the Council to investigate allegations of violations of human rights in Syria, including systematic and widespread human rights violations by military and security forces. The Office of the High Commissioner believed that these actions, by their nature and scope, could constitute crimes against humanity. Juan Mendez, the Special Rapporteur on torture, in a video message delivered on behalf of all Special Procedures mandate holders, said that they feared the threshold of widespread and systematic violence had been reached.

Speaking as a concerned country, Syria said that the government had responded accurately to information requests from the High Commissioner and expressed regret that these responses were not included in the report, which lacked credibility. The delegation said that nonetheless, Syria would allow the mission from the Office of the High Commissioner to visit the country as soon as the Syrian independent commission had completed its own investigation.

More than 70 statements were made during the course of the two day session by representatives of Members States, Observer States and non-governmental organizations.

The seventeenth Special Session was convened at the request of the delegations of the European Union and Poland, with the support of 24 other Member States and 32 Observer States. The Council has already held a Special Session on Syria on 29 April 2011.

The next regularly scheduled session of the Human Rights Council is from 12 to 30 September in the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

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For use of the information media; not an official record