dcsimg
English Site French Site Spanish Site Russian Site Arabic Site Chinese Site OHCHR header
Make a donation to OHCHR


Header image for news printout

Human Rights Council requests Commission of Inquiry to conduct a Special Inquiry in the events in El Houleh

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON

1st June 2012

Concludes Special Session after Condemning in the Strongest Possible Terms the Outrageous Use of Force against
Civilians in Syria

The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded its Special Session on the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and the recent killings in El Houleh after adopting a resolution in which it deplored the recent killings in El Houleh and emphasized the continued failure of the Syrian authorities to protect and promote the rights of all Syrians. The Council requested the Commission of Inquiry to urgently conduct a special inquiry into the events in El Houleh and if possible to publicly identify those who appeared responsible for the atrocities.

In the resolution, which was adopted by a vote of 41 in favour, 3 against and 2 abstentions, the Human Rights Council condemned in the harshest terms the outrageous killing of forty-nine children, all under the age of 10 years. It deplored the recent killings in El Houleh and emphasized the continued failure of the Syrian authorities to protect and promote the rights of all Syrians, including through systematic and repeated violations of human rights. The resolution stressed the need to conduct an international, transparent, independent and prompt investigation into violations of international law with a view to hold to account those responsible for widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations, including violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.

The Council requested the Commission of Inquiry to urgently conduct a special inquiry into the events in El Houleh and if possible to publicly identify those who appeared responsible for the atrocities. It requested the Commission to provide a full report of the findings of its special inquiry to the Human Rights Council at its twentieth session and invited the Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, to brief the Human Rights Council at its twentieth session.

Syria, speaking as a concerned country before the adoption of the resolution, said that it had listened carefully to the discussions and was thankful to those delegations which had refused to politicise the matter. The Syrian Government had committed itself to carry out the necessary inquiries to prosecute those responsible for the killings at El Houleh. This resolution would not solve the question but sent a negative message to the perpetrators and victims of these crimes, and the international community. Syria rejected this draft resolution which seemed to reflect unhealthy and malicious policies of those who wanted to drag Syria down or interfere in its affairs rather than to protect its people. Voting for this resolution was tantamount to killing the victims again.

In the debate, speakers strongly condemned acts of violence and human rights violations committed against civilians, in particular the recent attacks with heavy weaponry on El Houleh in which many women and children perished. Speakers called upon all parties to halt the violence and engage in order to create the conditions for a political solution to the crisis. Delegations noted the failure of Syrian authorities to fully implement the plan of the Joint Special Envoy and Security Council resolutions protecting the rights of its population, and ongoing allegations concerning arbitrary detentions and acts of torture. Speakers emphasized the need for an immediate independent investigation of alleged human rights and acts of violence, including on the recent events in El Houleh, which might amount to crimes against humanity, and to ensure that perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions. Delegations also urged the Syrian Government to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Several delegations accused the Council of politicizing human rights debates by providing a partial account of human rights violations, ignoring the violations committed by armed opposition groups, and promoting the intervention in Syrian affairs. Several speakers called upon the international community to send a strong message and take swift action to avoid further escalation of violence and human rights violations and to prevent the current crisis from developing into a civil war.

The following States took the floor during the general debate: Malaysia, Jordan, Austria, Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Ecuador, Maldives, Romania, Nigeria, Botswana, Czech Republic, Russian Federation, Libya, Poland, Belgium, Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Turkey, Republic of Korea, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Paraguay, Portugal, Iran, Algeria, Bahrain, Lithuania, Honduras, United Kingdom, Holy See, Morocco, Tunisia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Venezuela, South Africa, Timor Leste, Slovakia and El Salvador.

Non-governmental organizations that took the floor were: Press Emblem Campaign, International Commission of Jurists, CIVICUS, North-South XXI, Reporters Without Borders, Union of Arab Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme, Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, United Nations Watch, Groups des ONG pour la Convention relative aux droits de l’enfant, and Amnesty International.

Qatar presented the resolution and the Russian Federation, Cuba and China made general comments and requested that the draft resolution be put to a vote. Ecuador and India spoke in an explanation of the vote before the vote. Angola spoke in an explanation of the vote after the vote.

This was the fourth Special Session held on Syria in the last 14 months, after previous sessions on 29 April 2011, 22 and 23 August 2011 and 2 December 2011. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria was established at the second Special Session and presented its first report on 28 November 2011, concluding that the substantial body of evidence gathered by the Commission indicated that gross violations of human rights had been committed by Syrian military and security forces since the beginning of the protests in March 2011.

The twentieth regular session of the Human Rights Council will be held from 18 June to 6 July 2012.

Action on the Resolution

In resolution A/HRC/S-19/L.1 on the deteriorating situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic and the recent killings in El Houleh, adopted by a vote of 41 in favour, 3 against and 2 abstentions, the Human Rights Council condemns in the strongest possible terms the outrageous use of force against the civilian population; and condemns in the harshest terms the outrageous killing of forty-nine children, all under the age of 10 years. The Council deplores the recent killings in El Houleh and emphasizes the continued failure of the Syrian authorities to protect and promote the rights of all Syrians, including through systematic and repeated violations of human rights. The resolution stresses the need to conduct an international, transparent, independent and prompt investigation into violations of international law with a view to hold to account those responsible for widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations, including violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.

The Council requests the Commission of Inquiry to urgently conduct a special inquiry into the events in El Houleh and if possible to publicly identify those who appear responsible for the atrocities. It requests the Commission to provide a full report of the findings of its special inquiry to the Human Rights Council at its twentieth session, and to coordinate, as appropriate, with all United Nations mechanisms. The resolution also calls on the Syrian authorities to immediately allow United Nations human rights mechanisms, missions and humanitarian organizations full and immediate access to all areas of Syria and calls on all sides to respect the safety of humanitarian workers. It calls for the six-point proposal of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States to be immediately implemented. The resolution invites the Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, to brief the Human Rights Council at its twentieth session.


The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (41): Angola, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, United States and Uruguay.

Against (3): China, Cuba, and Russian Federation.

Abstentions (2): Ecuador and Uganda.

Qatar, speaking on behalf of co-sponsors Djibouti, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States, introduced the draft resolution S-19 and made oral amendments. The draft resolution supported the valuable work and mission of the Commission of Inquiry and the six-point plan proposed by the Joint Special Envoy of the League of Arab States and the United Nations. The situation was worsening day by day. The Security Council had condemned the massacre in El Houleh and the High Commissioner said the atrocities in El Houleh may amount to crimes against humanity. Qatar and the co-sponsors hoped the Council would adopt the resolution by consensus to show a strong stance against the Syrian authorities’ disregard for human rights and human life.

The President of the Council noted at this point that the draft resolution had 60 co-sponsors.

Russia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, categorically condemned the crime in El Houleh and demanded an investigation. It had actively participated in developing the text of the resolution and said consensus would have been possible if it had specified an independent investigation would be carried out rather than an investigation by the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry. Russia’s text had not been accepted. The text of the resolution was biased, unbalanced and contained a number of one-sided judgements. Many important elements were absent, in particular condemnation of terrorism. There was not even a reference to important work being carried out by United Nations Observers. The text contradicted the Security Council press statement of 27 May 2012. The Government of Syria was blamed for human rights violations, but there had been no reference to the actions of fighters, bandits and terrorists who had caused explosions, hunted down Syrian officials, religious leaders, committed murders against university professors and doctors, and were taking pilgrims hostage. The work of the United Nations Observer Mission in investigating El Houleh should not be duplicated. Russia believed it was absolutely inappropriate to invite the Joint Special Envoy Mr. Annan to brief the Council. His work was difficult and sensitive; it was a diplomatic mission that should not be subject to public view or discussion in the Human Rights Council. The resolution would exacerbate the situation in Syria and destabilize the region. Russia would vote against the resolution, and called on all who were in favour of a peaceful settlement of the situation to vote against it.

Cuba, speaking in a general comment, reiterated that Cuba was concerned about the loss of lives in any part of the world and condemned acts of terrorism in all their forms, including those committed against the Syrian people. This Council had not addressed any of these terrorist acts. The draft resolution was unbalanced and contained negative elements, incited violence and confrontation and was something Cuba could not agree with. It contained the view of only one of the parties and did not condemn the terrorist acts suffered by the Syrian people. It also went beyond the mandate of the Council, which made it even more negative. The negotiation process was not transparent, the draft was circulated very late and only one informal consultation was held. The purpose of the draft resolution was to undermine the independence of Syria and reflected the attempt by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to impose a regime change, using human rights as a pretext to justify an aggression. Cuba would continue to work actively for the protection of human rights, cooperation and international solidarity.

China, speaking in a general comment, said that all concerned parties should carry out all Security Council resolutions and the plan of the Joint Special Representative so that conditions could be created for a political resolution of the situation. China welcomed the Council holding a debate and speaking with one voice. However, the current resolution was neither balanced nor objective. For example, it prejudged the investigation requested and made demands only to one of the parties. The request of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate the killings in El Houleh would only undermine ongoing investigations. China had put forward a number of constructive amendments to the draft resolution so that it could be adopted by consensus, which had been however rejected by co-sponsors. Therefore China would vote against the resolution. It reaffirmed that China was a friend of all Arab peoples and was committed to reaffirming Syria’s independence and sovereignty

Syria, speaking as a concerned country, said that they had listened carefully to the discussions and were thankful to those delegations which had refused to politicise the matter. Many of the declarations had departed from diplomatic language and on several occasions the President of the Council had urged delegations not to use the word regime or other language that was not used in the United Nations. The Syrian Government had committed itself to carry out the necessary inquiries to prosecute those responsible for the killings at El Houleh. This resolution would not solve the question but sent a negative message to the perpetrators and victims of these crimes and the international community. This was a new area in which terrorism was supported, and terrorists were not only trained but mercenaries sent; and countries had allowed them to travel to Syria to kill civilians and some of them had come precisely from the countries supporting the draft resolution. Syria rejected this draft resolution which seemed to reflect unhealthy and malicious policies of those who wanted to drag Syria down or interfere in its affairs rather than to protect its people. Voting for this resolution was tantamount to killing the victims again.

Ecuador, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, condemned the massacre in El Houleh and expressed its sorrow about the deaths. However the resolution lacked impartiality and did not condemn the acts of violence by all parties in the conflict. For that reason Ecuador would abstain from the vote.

India, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said India had consistently supported all efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria and fully supported the mission of Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan. The killings in El Houleh were strongly condemned. India intended to vote for the resolution, and hoped the Commission of Inquiry would identify those responsible for the heinous acts. All parties needed to stop the violence for there to be a genuine chance for a peaceful end to the violence.

Angola, speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, indicated that Angola had voted in favour of the resolution with the conviction that the plan of the Joint Special Envoy would be fully implemented, and that it constituted a potential way out of the current crisis. Angola urged all parties and the international community to work towards a rapid settlement, adding that any steps undertaken against the plan could only lead to the worsening of the situation.

Debate

Malaysia expressed grave concern about the continuing violence in Syria that had resulted in untold casualties, miseries and hardship to its people. Malaysia also strongly condemned the senseless killings of citizens, including women and children, in El Houleh. The bloodshed must stop. Malaysia fully supported the call for the Commission of Inquiry to conduct an impartial investigation into those events.

Jordan strongly condemned the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and the appalling massacre in El Houleh and called for an international inquiry. Jordan was in direct contact with the sufferings of the Syrian people and would continue to provide all the assistance it could to brothers fleeing the instability in Syria despite its limited resources. It was important that the Syrian authorities cooperated with Mr. Kofi Annan’s mission and his six-point plan, which Jordan fully supported as a peaceful political solution. Any military intervention would cause further complications not only inside Syria but for regional peace and security as well.

Austria strongly condemned the killings in El Houleh and was especially appalled that 49 children were among the casualties. Austria called on the Syrian authorities to protect the population, stop all attacks, and release all prisoners of conscience and arbitrarily detained persons immediately. Syria should also allow the independent media to operate without intimidation. The incident of El Houleh may amount to crimes against humanity, and warranted the attention of the International Criminal Court.

Mexico regretted this was the fourth time the Council was meeting to address the deterioration of the human rights situation in Syria. The various reports concerning the events in El Houleh suggested the grave violations not only of human rights but of basic norms of humanity. These attacks constituted a violation of international law and Security Council resolutions related to the end of violence by all parties. It was the obligation of the Council to ensure an investigation that would contribute to bringing those responsible to justice.

Guatemala said that the Council must address serious violations to human rights wherever they occur. Guatemala condemned the loss of human lives in Syria and urged the Syrian Government to uphold the basic human rights instruments and guarantee the life and integrity of its people. The Joint Special Envoy had insisted that the Government must desist from deploying heavy weaponry in urban areas. Guatemala called for the halt of violence in all its forms and called upon the Syrian Government to facilitate humanitarian access and to put and end to arbitrary detentions.

Cuba said that while the Council had remained silent about the acts of terrorism, the most basic sense of justice should prevent one-sided allegations. A civil war or foreign intervention in Syria would cause greater destruction and multiply fatalities, would destabilise the region and could have grave consequences for the Middle East. Cuba rejected any attempt to undermine the independence, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Syria, and condemned the attempt by the United States and other NATO members to impose a regime change. A political solution to the current situation with full respect of Syrian sovereignty and independence was needed, and it was the role of Council to foster dialogue rather than confrontation.

Ecuador unequivocally condemned the El Houleh massacre, expressed solidarity with the family members of the victims, and hoped it would not remain unpunished. It also condemned the excessive use of force by all actors in the conflict, and called upon all to end the violence and seek out a peaceful solution based on Kofi Annan’s six-point plan and political dialogue. The international community was urged to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Maldives said it was important for representatives of the international community to send out a common message conveying its outrage at the killings. The full horror of the massacre in El Houleh had been widely reported. If there were any who doubted whether crimes against humanity were being perpetrated in Syria, such ambiguity must now be put firmly to rest. The international community, led by the Security Council, must act, and the violations referred to the International Criminal Court.

Romania was shocked by the brutal massacre in El Houleh, in which so many people including a great number of children and women lost their lives. The Human Rights Council could not stay silent, despite claims of repetition. It must strongly condemn once against the unspeakable violence in Syria and urge the Syrian regime to fully respect Kofi Annan’s six-point plan according to the resolution of the Security Council.

Nigeria said that the situation in Syria warranted the sustained attention of the Council and condemned the recent killing of civilians in El Houleh. This reprehensible and totally unjustifiable act drew the attention of the international community to the unacceptable use of force by the Syrian Government. Nigeria urged the Syrian Government to immediately halt its attacks on civilians and to implement the plan of the Joint Special Envoy.

Botswana said that last Friday’s massacre in El Houleh was horrific and inhuman and deserved condemnation by the international community. Botswana reiterated its strong support for the imposition of diplomatic measures and an urgent investigation into the El Houleh massacre. Botswana called on the members of the Security Council to take heed of the cries of the Syrian people and their need for protection; and reiterated its support for the plan on the Joint Special Envoy.

Czech Republic said that the recent massacres in El Houleh had prompted a meeting of this Council to voice international outrage at the brutal killings. An international independent investigation had to be initiated as a matter of urgency. The Czech Republic called on the Government of Syria to provide immediate access to the Independent Commission of Inquiry. The International Community had to speak with one voice to end the bloodshed and in this respect expressed support for the plan of the Joint Special Envoy.

Russia decisively condemned the massacre of peaceful citizens in El Houleh, and earlier this week insisted the Security Council held a special meeting to discuss the case. Russia asked General Mood, who headed the United Nations Special Mission in Syria, to explain what had been seen on the ground. The General confirmed that artillery and tank shells were found as well as bodies with close-range bullet wounds and other traces of violence. Russia was seriously concerned by attempts from some countries, before hearing the results of the United Nations Mission’s full investigation into El Houleh, to determine who the guilty parties were and to exercise pressure on the Security Council in order to use the tragedy in their own unilateral interests. Russia remained convinced that the settlement of the Syrian crisis could only come from diplomatic channels through stringent observance of the Annan Peace Plan. Russia opposed the use of the Council for a scenario based on force and foreign intervention in Syria. In the interest of ending the violence and supporting the Annan Peace Plan, Russia continued to be committed to its position and urged others to act in the same fashion.

Libya said 108 people were slaughtered in EL Houleh, many of whom were women and children. The crimes against humanity being committed in Syria could not go without comment. Libya hoped the international community would act quickly and courageously to protect the innocent people of Syrian and meet their legitimate aspirations for peace, otherwise the violence could lead to a civil war. Libya had stood by the Syrian people since the beginning of their peaceful uprising. It recognized the Syrian Transitional Council, had cut relations with the regime, and had taken in many persons who fled Syria. Libya hoped the Council would act in the same way it did when the Libyan people rose up and provide a solution in the same regard.

Poland joined other delegations in the unequivocal condemnation of the massacre in El Houleh, of which many victims were small children. Many violations in Syria may amount to crimes against humanity and warranted the attention of the International Criminal Court. Poland was deeply troubled by the grave humanitarian situation in Syria and called for full implementation of the Kofi Annan six-point plan.

Belgium said that the atrocious attacks committed in El Houleh were part of a string of atrocities of which the Syrian Government was responsible since the beginning of the uprising and demanded an independent inquiry, preferably through the International Commission of Inquiry. The perpetrators of violations must be found and brought to justice. There was a need for a vigorous response by the international community. Strong political support for existing initiatives was a priority, in particular, the Joint Special Envoy’s plan. Belgium urged the Syrian Government to fully implement the plan.

Costa Rica condemned the massive human rights violations in Syria and appealed to the Syrian authorities to comply with their commitments under international law. The Syrian Government must take measures to avoid further bloodshed and violations; a political dialogue with all parties and an emphasis on the victims was the only solution to the crisis. Perpetrators should be identified and held accountable by the relevant bodies. The international community had an important role to play given the inefficiency of national mechanisms and the implementation of the Joint Special Envoy’s plan was central to this end.

Egypt said that Egypt was appalled by the massacre in El Houleh, including the killing of many women and children. An immediate investigation should take place. Nothing could justify the shelling and killing of civilians, a violation of all red lines. The Syrian crisis had reached a critical stage, and the failure to implement the plan of the Joint Special Envoy and the Arab initiative would only lead to more violence and the killing of civilians. Egypt reiterated its support for the plan and reaffirmed its support for efforts to unify the Syrian opposition. The Council should contribute to the international community’s action to end the bloodshed and support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.

France said the appalling massacre of El Houleh was an attempt by the Syrian authorities to silence their people. The Syrian authorities had shown a lack of will to follow Kofi Annan’s six-point plan. How many more children must die? The Human Rights Council was the moral conscience of humanity and could not close its eyes to the situation; it must condemn those crimes against humanity. France called for the referral of the Syrian crimes to the International Criminal Court and said perpetrators of crimes must be found and brought to trial. The Council owed it to the people assassinated by a dictatorship that sought only its own survival and that nobody could support any longer.

Turkey said the appalling massacre of 100 innocent civilians in El Houleh made the holding of the Special Session an obligation. The image of the bodies of 50 children in white shrouds would haunt the conscience of humanity until justice was done. The six-point plan was not open ended. That horrendous act should be a turning point for the international community to review its position and take a bolder stance. Turkey called on all members of the Council to adopt the resolution concerning the mass killing of children without a vote. Those who were responsible for the heavy criminal record of Syria would not be able to evade accountability.

Republic of Korea strongly condemned the indiscriminate killings of dozens of civilians in El Houleh and fully supported recent calls by the international community for the cessation of violence in all its forms and holding those responsible accountable. The Republic of Korea also voiced strong concern about the dire humanitarian situation in Syria.

Japan strongly condemned the continuing repression and grave human rights violations in Syria, in particular the brutal violence in El Houleh. It was clear that a large part of the responsibility lay with the Syrian Government, which had not implemented the plan of the Joint Special Envoy. It was vital that a thorough investigation was conducted and perpetrators identified. Japan supported the investigation by the International Commission of Inquiry and called on Syria to fully cooperate. Japan strongly demanded that the Syrian Government fully implemented the plan by the Joint Special Envoy and upheld its responsibility to protect civilians.

Brazil said that events in Syria had caused outrage worldwide, including the recent incidents in El Houleh. Brazil stressed the need for the immediate cessation of all forms of violence and noted that the cooperation of the Syrian Government in the implementation of the plan of the Joint Special Envoy was vital, including a halt to the movement of troops in urban areas. Brazil was concerned by reports which depicted the current situation as degenerating into a civil war. Brazil urged the Commission of Inquiry to investigate the killings and bring those responsible to justice.

Australia said that Australia was deeply disturbed by the massacre in El Houleh which resulted in 108 civilian deaths, including dozens of women and children, and was appalled by evidence of the Syrian Government’s involvement. No effort should be spared in bringing the perpetrators to justice through an independent investigation. The international community must act swiftly to exert ever greater pressure on the Assad regime in light of its brutal suppression of its citizens and flagrant disregard for their legitimate rights and aspirations for a future of democracy, peace and hope.

Germany said if the atrocious massacre of dozens of women and children in El Houleh did not serve as a wake-up call to the international community, what else would? The international community could stop the violence by standing together in solidarity and living up to its responsibilities. Opposition forces had also committed abuses, which were strongly condemned, but Germany did not accept Syria’s statement that Government forces were not responsible for the systematic policy of violations of human rights. The Syrian Government had left a clear footprint in El Houleh and elsewhere.

New Zealand said that at the same time as it was paying lip-service to international mediation, the Assad regime had displayed cynical contempt for such efforts, starkly epitomised by the massacre of more than 100 civilians, including 49 children, in El Houleh. New Zealand called for the situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court. The international community, led by the Security Council, must put its combined weight behind efforts to stop the violence.

Bulgaria strongly condemned the appalling and indiscriminate slaughter of more than 100 civilians, including many children and women who were murdered in the ugliest and most barbaric way. Those who committed such horrific crimes must be held to account. The situation in Syria had become intolerable and unacceptable. The Security Council must act in accordance with its responsibilities under the United Nations Charter.

Canada said that the appalling massacre in El Houleh tragically demonstrated the brutality of the Assad regime. The agreement of all parties to respect a ceasefire, the plan of the Joint Special Envoy, and the United Nations supervision mission presented a window of opportunity for a peaceful transition. The Council had been steadfast in its engagement on this matter and Canada called upon the Council to unanimously adopt the draft resolution and to ensure its implementation. The Syrian people should be permitted to fulfil their aspiration for a free and democratic Syria that respected the fundamental human rights of all its citizens.

United Arab Emirates said that the United Arab Emirates had condemned the serious attack in El Houlah that was a blatant violation of human rights. The international community had striven to put an end to this violence. The United Arab Emirates had provided humanitarian assistance to those fleeing the violence to help alleviate their suffering. The Council should take its responsibility in the face of human rights violations and protect the innocent. An inquiry should be conducted into the massacre and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.

Paraguay said that the Council should continue to speak out given this tragedy. Paraguay urged the Syrian Government to ensure that its citizens enjoyed the right to life. Syria had to halt all acts of torture and demonstrate its commitment by prosecuting those responsible for these crimes and putting an end to all forms of violence against its people in agreement with international obligations. Paraguay expressed support for the plan of the Joint Special Envoy. The Council should continue to speak with one voice until the cessation of human rights violations in Syria.

Portugal was appalled by the El Houleh massacre of 49 children by the Syrian armed forces and strongly condemned the Syrian Government for systematically ignoring the international community’s call for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Syrian people. The Syrian authorities must allow the United Nations supervision mission in Syria to fulfil its mandate and fully implement Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

Iran strongly condemned the killing of a large number of citizens in El Houleh and called for an immediate end to violence. This sort of terrorist act had targeted the country’s stability and efforts to reach a peaceful end to the crisis. Iran called upon the Syrian Government to continue its investigations with the United Nations Observer Mission to find the truth and bring the perpetrators of such horrendous acts to justice, and called on all parties in Syria to fully implement Kofi Annan’s six-point plan. The international community should remain cautious about any act that violated the sovereignty and integrity of Syria.

Algeria said the events in El Houleh did not only affect peace and security in Syria but affected the region in a wider sense. Algeria strongly condemned that crime that took so many lives, including of women and children, and hoped a light would be shone on that vicious act. Algeria called on the warring parties in Syria to show wisdom and use dialogue to bring stability to the country, which played a vital role in the region.

Bahrain said that Bahrain had followed with sorrow what had happened in Syria, in particular in El Houleh where heavy artillery was used against civilians. Bahrain condemned the use of excessive force against civilians, slaughter and barbarism, which might amount to crimes against humanity. The Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League had also called for an end to the shedding of blood, and Bahrain hoped that this discussion would ensure that measures were taken to make sure that perpetrators were held accountable and would send a clear message by the Council and the international community concerning the protection of human rights.

Lithuania said that the events at El Houleh had left dozens of children and women dead. The excessive use of force constituted a violation of international law and might amount to crimes against humanity. Perpetrators should be brought to justice and Lithuania supported the setting up of an immediate investigation. Lithuania also expressed support for the plan of the Joint Special Envoy and urged the Syrian Government to implement it. The Council should use the most effective means to respond to the situation.

Honduras said that the assassinations which occurred at El Houleh had been confirmed by the United Nations mission in Syria and condemned the continuous deterioration of the human rights situation in Syria. Honduras reiterated its support for the plan of the Joint Special Envoy, which the Syrian Government was committed to implement. The draft resolution requested the Commission of Inquiry to carry out a comprehensive independent investigation. Given the pressing nature of the situation, Honduras called upon all parties to immediately halt all violence; and on the Syrian Government to fulfil its international obligations.

United Kingdom said there were reports of government militias moving from house to house holding guns to the heads of children and executing entire families. It asked what depth of hatred, what repudiation existed to cause the massacre of 49 children of primary school age – that was more children than there were members of this Council? Kofi Annan’s six-point plan remained the best hope for Syria. The regime’s continued refusal to implement that plan was creating space for terrorist groups. The Council should send a clear message to the Assad Government that its barbarity would not go unchallenged.

Holy See strongly condemned the escalating acts of violence in Syria. In particular, the heinous massacre in El Houleh, including of numerous children, was a cause of great sorrow for the Holy Father and the entire Catholic community. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI had repeatedly called for an end to the violence and bloodshed. More than ever the Holy See called upon all leaders of the various religions to commit themselves to promoting peace for the good of the whole community, and upon all believers to pray for peace. Violence would only lead to further violence, death and destruction. The peace plan should be implemented.

Morocco was profoundly shocked and saddened by the slaughter in EL Houleh and called for the immediate cessation of violence, particularly artillery in residential areas. It was vital the killing machine attacking civilians in Syria was stopped. El Houleh would not be the last tragedy unless the Syrian authorities committed to protecting its population. Nothing could justify the indiscriminate shelling of innocent victims, and humanity could no longer tolerate it. All countries involved must pool their efforts to stop the violence.

Tunisia strongly condemned the massacre in El Houlah and all acts of violence against civilians. It called for an immediate and impartial investigation into these events. All those involved should be prosecuted. It was unacceptable for the Council to turn its back on the suffering of the Syrian people and Tunisia urged the international community to intensify efforts to put an immediate end to violence and human rights violations in Syria. Tunisia expressed solidarity to the legitimate demands of the Syrian people for freedom.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea expressed concern that the situation in Syria was being aggravated by the terrorist acts of the rebels who received military, financial, and other assistance from outside forces. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea strongly condemned the atrocities in El Houleh and welcomed the publication of an investigation by the Syrian Government. Human rights issues must be resolved through genuine dialogue and constructive cooperation, free from coercion and selective condemnation. Interference in internal affairs and pressure under the pretext of human rights were a flagrant breach of the United Nations Charter; the Syrian Government and people could resolve the domestic issue without intervention.

Ireland expressed outrage and revulsion at the massacre in El Houleh. Such barbaric events showed that the Syrian authorities, despite their commitment to the plan of the Joint Special Envoy, had continued their systematic recourse to gross human rights violations. Ireland supported the statements by the Security Council and Baroness Ashton condemning in the strongest of terms this massacre, and called upon the Syrian authorities to cease all forms of violence and fully implement the plan of the Joint Special Envoy. Perpetrators should be held accountable and Ireland supported extending the mandate of the independent Commission of Inquiry to fully investigate the events in El Houleh.

Slovenia strongly condemned the massacre of over 100 people in El Houleh, including 49 children, which alongside other violations may amount to crimes against humanity. The international community could tolerate the situation in Syria no longer and must put an immediate end to the gross human rights violations in the country, and ensure accountability to international law. Tragic events such as Srebrenica had taught the world that such events must be stopped immediately, before the situation became even worse.

Viet Nam was concerned about the exacerbated violence in Syria and condemned the El Houleh massacre of over 100 civilians. Viet Nam asked that all concerned parties open an independent inquiry on those attacks and comply with international humanitarian law in armed conflict. The explosive situation could only be resolved through dialogue and reconciliation while respecting the territorial integrity of Syria.

Venezuela expressed its deepest sympathies to the Syrian people and the family members of victims of the odious crimes in El Houleh. President Assad had denounced the presence of terrorists and mercenaries destabilizing his country, which were armed and trained by the same countries that convened this Special Session, and ultimately aimed for foreign military intervention. The success of the Annan Peace Plan depended on terrorist acts and arms smuggling being stopped.

South Africa strongly condemned the killings in El Houleh and stressed that all those responsible for these criminal acts of violence should be held accountable. South Africa supported a thorough and immediate investigation with the involvement of the United Nations supervision mission and the Commission of Inquiry established by the Council. The plan of the Joint Special Envoy presented an opportunity to solve the conflict and its implementation should not be jeopardised. South Africa would prefer the adoption of the draft resolution by consensus to send a strong message.

Timor Leste expressed grave concern about the situation in Syria and the toll on civilian lives, including children. The Syrian people should determine their own fate in a peaceful environment and through democratic means. Timor Leste called upon all parties to honour their commitments and to cooperate with the Joint Special Envoy in the implementation of his plans; and called upon members of the Council to refrain from using the suffering of the Syrian people to foment existing adversaries but to instead work to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Slovakia condemned the massacre in El Houleh, which had been confirmed by United Nations observers. The use of brute force in residential areas represented a violation of the obligations of the Syrian Government under international law and the plan of the Joint Special Envoy. Access should be granted to persons providing humanitarian aid to all relevant areas and the protection of humanitarian personnel should be ensured. Human rights violations, including those that might amount to crimes against humanity, should be investigated and those responsible should be brought to justice. Slovakia supported the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry to conduct an investigation of the El Houleh killings.

El Salvador expressed concern at the violations of human rights and the levels of violence reached. El Salvador condemned the killings, in particularly those of children, and looked forward to the promotion, protection and safeguarding of human rights. El Salvador urged efforts to end all acts of violence and called on all the parties to the conflict to ensure the path towards the consolidation of peace was regained. It supported the draft resolution and hoped that it would be adopted by consensus.

Press Emblem Campaign noted that while United Nations observers and journalists were able to visit El Houleh and report on the crimes there, there were very likely to be several other mass killings which for now, nobody had been able to investigate. As of today, nearly 30 journalists had been killed working in Syria, without including citizen journalists and bloggers.

International Commission of Jurists said the consequences of inaction were clear following the El Houleh massacre. The supposed ceasefire and presence of United Nations monitors on the ground had failed to deter the widespread continuation of arbitrary killings, which had continued unabated. The Security Council must refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

World Alliance for Citizen Participation was appalled by the new chapter of killings in El Houleh and welcomed the Special Session. It was time for the Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court to be investigated for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Today was the chance for the Council to speak with one voice and say “enough is enough”.

North-South XXI regretted the loss of life in Syria which was the result of the use of violence by several sides. There was evidence that non-governmental entities using force in El Houleh were using weapons apparently supplied by foreign entities. North-South XXI urged States to take action to end the violence in Syria by all parties.

Reporters Without Borders said that since the conflict began journalists had been targeted by Syrian authorities to impose a media blackout on the acts committed by the security forces. Without coverage, the crimes and impunity would continue. Reporters Without Borders called for the release of all journalists and net-citizens who had been imprisoned and for a halt to the violence.

Union of Arab Jurists said in a joint statement that violent acts had been committed by armed groups and terrorists operating in the Syrian territory against civilians and security forces. These groups had been trained and financed by neighbouring and Western countries in violation of the United Nations Charter. The solution to the crisis required the dialogue of all parties with the Syrian Government.

International Federation for Human Rights League said shortly after the El Houleh killings, the discovery two days ago of 13 bodies in Deir Ez-Zor confirmed the urgent need for an independent investigation. The Security Council should without any delay refer Syria to the International Criminal Court in order to hold those responsible for the crimes accountable and deter future crimes.

Human Rights Watch condemned the brutal killings in El Houleh but said it was not an isolated incident. Since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011 over 10,000 people had been killed and tens of thousands injured, imprisoned and tortured. The Human Rights Council should urge the General Assembly and Security Council to demand access for the Commission of Inquiry and to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme expressed its solidarity with the Syrian people and condemned the disproportionate use of force against the Syrian population. Syria had violated international law and Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043. The organization supported the immediate compliance by all parties with the Annan six-point plan.

Tupaj Amaru said that social uprisings had degenerated into an armed confrontation and guerrilla wars were being funded by Western powers. According to reliable sources the Syrian Free army was behind attacks on military bases, government buildings and the sabotage of the peace plan. The Syrian National Council had welcomed the expulsion of Syrian diplomats and urged the international community to engage in direct international intervention.

United Nations Watch said that the massacre in El Houleh was clearly an act of the Assad regime. The village where some 130 people were brutally murdered had been known from the beginning as one of the most vibrant centres in the struggle for a free and democratic Syria. Could people behind such atrocities really be trusted to carry out the plan of the Joint Special Envoy? Why did the United Nations recently elect Syria to UNESCO’s human rights committee?

NGO for the Convention of the Rights of the Child joined the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Special Procedure mandate holders in condemning the deliberate targeting of children among civilians in Syria. Consistent reports confirmed that violations of children’s rights were taking place in Syria despite the Government’s commitments. The organization called upon the Syrian authorities to fulfil their commitments under international law and to the Council to act to deter further abuse by ensuring the accountability of those responsible for violations.

Amnesty international said as long as powerful voices in the international community including some members of the Human Right Council and the Security Council, continued to deny the reality of the situation, the intolerable would continue. Russia had warned against an “emotional reaction” to the events in Syria but it was Syria’s biggest arms supplier and along with other countries continued to arm the Government. An arms embargo should be imposed without delay.


__________

For use of the information media; not an official record