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Press Release by Commission of Inquiry on Syria (Independent International Commission of Inquiry pursuant to resolution A/HRC/S-17/1 and extended through A/HRC/Res/19/22)

16 April 2012

The Commission of Inquiry on Syria welcomes the arrival in Damascus last night of an advanced team of observers in line with United Nations Security Council resolution 2042 on 14 April authorizing the team to monitor the ceasefire announced on 12 April.

The independent Commission, comprised of Paulo Pinheiro (Chair) and Karen Abuzayd, expresses its sincere hope that all parties will cooperate with the observers and is convinced that their presence is essential for the full realization of the plan proposed by the joint UN-Arab League special envoy Mr. Kofi Annan. The Commission welcomes the fact that the Syrian Government and the opposition have accepted this plan which the Commission hopes will lead to an improvement of the overall situation on the ground.

While the Commission acknowledges reports of a general reduction in levels of violence in some parts of the country subsequent to the ceasefire announced on 12 April, it is seriously concerned over accounts of a number of incidents since then, including the shelling of the Khaldieh neighbourhood and other districts in Homs by government forces and the use of heavy weaponry, such as machine guns in other areas, including Idlib and some suburbs of Damascus. The Commission is also concerned by reports of new arrests, especially in Hama and Aleppo. Prior to the ceasefire the Commission continued its field investigations and confirmed a number of serious human rights violations.

The Commission also continued to receive reports of human rights abuses committed by anti-government armed groups engaged in fighting against the Syrian army before and after the ceasefire, including extra-judicial killings of soldiers captured during armed confrontations.

Despite these transgressions, the Commission remains hopeful that the ceasefire will hold and that the cessation of violence will contribute to an atmosphere that is conducive to peace and a comprehensive national dialogue among the Syrian Government, opposition groups and other components of Syrian society.

The Commission also hopes that the ceasefire will contribute to putting an end to the gross human rights violations that it has been reporting on over the past six months. The Commission recalls the need to ensure accountability for those violations, as a fundamental component of a transitional period leading to a State founded on the principles of rule of law, democracy and human rights.

The Commission remains concerned with the deteriorating humanitarian situation, especially in areas where military hostilities have been more intense. It is particularly preoccupied with the fate of the tens of thousands of people, including women and children, who have been internally displaced as a result of the escalation of violence over the past few weeks. It is equally concerned about the increase in the number of Syrian nationals fleeing the country and commends the efforts of neighbouring countries in hosting them. The Commission hopes that the ceasefire will allow for immediate and unhindered access of humanitarian organizations to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population.

As the Commission’s mandate has been extended through to September of this year, it will continue to strive to report comprehensively on gross human right violations. The Commissioners will pursue their work during its mandate over the next six months. The Commission will also provide a number of regular updates on the information gathered during its investigations, as mandated by Human Rights Council through resolution A/HRC/Res/19/22.

* On 23 March 2012 the Human Rights Council extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria. This update is made pursuant to paragraph 15 of Resolution A/HRC/19/22.

For further information please contact: Sonia Bakar, Head of CoI Secretariat , +41 (0) 917.9988, sbakar@ohchr.org, or Rolando Gomez, OHCHR, Human Rights Council Branch, Public Information Officer, +41 (0) 22.917.9711, rgomez@ohchr.org