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Council holds interactive dialogue with Expert on internally displaced persons and Commission of Inquiry on Syria

MORNING

16 September 2013

Concludes General Debate on All Human Rights

The Human Rights Council this morning heard the presentation of reports by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons and the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, followed by an interactive dialogue. The Council also concluded its general debate on all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said the United Nations General Assembly had requested him to submit a report on the “situation of internally displaced persons in Syria” and to provide recommendations. This report, based on a desk review of existing information, covered the deterioration of the situation of human rights in Syria. The estimated 4.25 million persons internally displaced within the country were among the most vulnerable and would be at even greater risk with the coming of winter. Gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by Government forces and dissident armed groups continued to drive mass displacement. Durable solutions to displacement would require innovative measures and support by various sectors of the international community, including development actors.

Paulo Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said that fighting raged on in Syria. Civilians across the country faced daily indiscriminate shelling and bombardment by Government forces. Extremist anti-Government armed groups had targeted civilians in attacks across the northern governorates and the methods of warfare used spread terror among the civilian population. Over six million people were refugees or internally displaced persons. More than two million had crossed the borders, seeking safety in neighbouring countries. Millions more had left their homes, braving shelling and the dangers of the ever-present checkpoints, to seek shelter inside Syria. The Government had continued its relentless campaign of air bombardment and artillery shelling across the country.

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that the Commission of Inquiry continued to stray in the labyrinth of exaggeration and reliance on unverified reports. More than 250 communications and documents and had been provided to the Commission, but had been ignored. The Commission had continued to ignore the negative effect of the unjust economic sanctions imposed on the people of Syria that had caused many economic and social crises, and the migration of Syrians to neighbouring countries. The principle of the right of a State to protect its people had also been ignored. A small positive step by the Commission was its indication of the conformity of the position of Saudi Arabia with the position of Al Qaeda. It was hoped that in future the Commission would find the candour and courage to indicate that Turkey and Qatar were implicated.

In the interactive dialogue that followed, speakers said that the Human Rights Council and the wider international community had to come together to speak in a unified voice against the most deplorable human rights and humanitarian situation. Some speakers expressed concern that in the name of human rights and alleged humanitarian initiatives military aggression was being justified in violation of the right to peace. The Commission of Inquiry in Syria had to be allowed to enter Syria so that it could complete its work. How could the Human Rights Council further support Mr. Pinheiro’s mandate?

Speaking in the discussion were European Union, Kuwait, Malaysia, Bahrain on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Cuba on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Ecuador, Turkey and Venezuela.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. The first part of the general debate was held on 13 September, and a summary can be seen here.

In the general debate, speakers raised issues concerning human rights of older persons, the post-2015 development agenda, child mortality, the right to education, the safety of journalists and the death penalty. A series of non-governmental organizations also spoke about violations of various human rights in a number of States.

Speaking in the general debate were Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, Movement contre le racisme et pour l’amitie entre les peuples, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Foodfirst Information and Action Network, International Muslim Women’s Union, Save the Children International, Amnesty International, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, Servas International, International Association for Democracy in Africa, Reporters Without Borders International, United Schools International, Iranian Elite Research Centre, Society Studies Centre, The Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, Press Emblem Campaign, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Soka Gakkai International, Iranian Elite Research Centre, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Canners International Permanent Committee, United Nations Watch, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Indian Law Resource Centre, International Commission of Jurists, Asian Legal Resource Centre, European Union of Public Relations, International Service of Human Rights, International Educational Development, Union of Arab Jurists, Liberation, Society for Threatened Peoples, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Global Helping to Advance Women and Children, Agence Internationale pour le développement, Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights, France Libertes Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, Comite International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale, Prevention Association of Social Harms, Under the Same Sun Fund, International Buddhist Relief Organization and International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

China and Mauritania spoke in a right of reply.

The Human Rights Council at 3 p.m. this afternoon will conclude the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons and with the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. It will then start the interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, in a video message, said that there was increasing recognition of the need for debate on issues related to the human rights of older persons. Older persons should not be seen as a liability or a burden on a country’s economy, but as an asset. The Government of Malaysia was urged to consider drafting a law on older persons.

Movement contre le racisme et pour l’amitie entre les peuples said that the recent discovery of mass graves in the desert of the occupied territories of Western Sahara showed that the authorities had not disclosed the whole truth. Morocco had provided limited and partial information contributing to existing confusion and uncertainty.

Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII firmly believed that the post-2015 development agenda should avoid the limited view of the previous Millennium Development Goals agenda and adopt, at every level, a human rights-based approach that included a focus on the right to development.

Foodfirst Information and Action Network said that there were serious violations of the rights to freedom, access to justice and development in Paraguay against its peasant population. At least 113 peasant leaders calling for land reform had been killed in reprisals in recent years. A legally binding instrument to protect the right to development was required.

International Muslim Women’s Union said that the State of India had been carrying out, as a matter of policy, violent repression of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Supported by criminal groups, these violations included rapes, kidnappings and violence. Repressive State organs had to be disbanded.

Save the Children International, in a joint statement with World Vision, welcomed the decision of the Human Rights Council to include child mortality as a major human rights concern on its agenda. The resolution before the Council on the “preventable mortality of children under five as a human rights concern” was welcomed.

Amnesty International expressed its concern about the resumption of executions in some countries over the past year. There was no convincing evidence that capital punishment had a deterrent effect on crime. Governments should invest in crime prevention programmes and a fair, functioning criminal justice system.

Commission to Study the Organization of Peace said that States had the responsibility to ensure that citizens benefitted from development processes. Since the creation of Pakistan, repeated attempts by the Baloch to have a greater say in the utilization of their resources had been answered by brutal force.

Servas International said that media outlets refuting the Islamist terrorist ideologies, such as a website called New Age Islam, were banned in Pakistan. Islamophobes portrayed Islam exactly in the way the Jihadists did. Islam should not be portrayed as a religion of terror.

International Association for Democracy in Africa said over the early years of the past decade every day continued to hold the promise that had been made in 2001, that Afghanistan would be rid of extremism and transformed into a democracy. Not only did the Taliban thrive, but the world was actually cajoling Pakistan to help to arrive at a deal with the Taliban.

Reporters Without Borders International welcomed the new report of the High Commissioner on the safety of journalists that drew attention to the increasing level of violence and harassment facing journalists. Four additional recommendations addressed to States were highlighted, including systematic monitoring of respect for their obligations.

United Schools International said with regards to Afghanistan that while there had been many declarations from the leaders of the countries of the coalition that no arrangement would be endorsed that violated women’s rights, the reality was that with the coalition gone, it was the regressive ideology of the Taliban that would determine the destiny of women.

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada said that the right to political participation was systemically suppressed in Thailand and Cambodia. Attacks on human rights defenders in both countries were not properly investigated and a culture of impunity arose. Access to the Human Rights Council by civil society organizations had to be enhanced.

Soka Gakkai International, speaking on behalf of 15 organizations, said that the right to education was a basic right, as well as a key to other rights, and called for greater mainstreaming of higher education into human rights mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review. All stakeholders, including civil society actors, had a critical role to play.

Iranian Elite Research Centre thanked the international community for help with environmental disasters in Iran in recent years but said that economic sanctions on the country had led to the denial of basic rights. Sanctions, particularly those that interfered with the provision of medicine and also free communication with the outside world, could lead to war.

Society Studies Centre expressed its deep concern on the continuing and annual renewal of sanctions, unilateral actions and coercive measures against Sudan, which had detrimental effects on the Sudanese people, including women and children. The international community should support developing countries.

Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims said that the Syrian conflict had taken a dangerous turn. Military action against Syria would only make the situation worse and would not solve the problem. Over 3,000 schools had been destroyed since the beginning of the conflict and 40 per cent of Syrian children were deprived of education. A political solution was the best option.

Press Emblem Campaign said that the adoption of the resolution on safety of journalists in September last year was an important step forward for the protection of journalists. The study of the Office of the High Commissioner on this topic showed that the protection of journalists was closely related to political will. Measures were needed for the effective protection of journalists.

International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists noted the report of the Secretary-General on the administration of justice and the protection of those deprived of their liberty. The Association wished to address the Egyptian Ambassador attending the Council and highlighted Egypt’s violation of these fundamental concepts.

Canners International Permanent Committee said that education was not merely learning to read and write. Rather, education was a wide all-embracing phenomenon that ought to teach young impressionable minds about the diversity of mankind. Schools and curricula in some countries deliberately portrayed people of different faiths and races in negative terms.

United Nations Watch said that in the world today nowhere was slavery so systematically practiced as in Mauritania, a country that was an elected member of the Council. Some 20 per cent of Mauritanians, about 600,000 people belonging to the darker skinned black African minority, lived as slaves.

International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that the High Commissioner had pointed to the grave situation in Iraq, including the deterioration of the health situation. The legacy of chemical weaponry had left a scenario that had been compared to the effects of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. For 12 years the international community had watched this unfold in silence. A Special Rapporteur for Iraq should be appointed.

Indian Law Resource Centre called for banks to be held to account when the money they lent led to human rights abuses. Such banks, including the World Bank and the International Bank of Development, had to be subject to a legal framework in line with other institutions so that their funding mechanisms could not give rise to situations in which the rights of indigenous peoples were violated.

International Commission of Jurists welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the protection of all people deprived of their liberty and called for more respect to be paid to States’ obligations under treaties and under general and customary international law. Prompt access to an independent lawyer was among the procedures necessary for judicial supervision to be effective and as a safeguard against torture and ill-treatment.

Asian Legal Resource Centre said that human rights defenders faced exceptional challenges, particularly in countries where they were subject to threats of State repression, including in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Inadequate criminal justice mechanisms were enormous obstacles to prevent violations of rights and justice institutions were subjugated by orders of political or fundamentalist groups.

European Union of Public Relations said that the advent of armed groups had had a disastrous impact on the physical and psychological well-being of children, especially in developing and poor countries. Orphans from natural disasters provided a ready pool of impressionable and despairing youngsters who were wooed by extremist groups.

International Service for Human Rights said that human rights defenders were change makers and their work was critical to the promotion and protection of human rights in all societies. States had to create a safe environment in which human rights defenders could operate free from insecurity. Continued attacks, intimidation and restrictions on human rights defenders and their work were witnessed around the world.

International Educational Development said that the right to self-determination was implicated in a number of ethnic conflicts. The situation of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka was worse now than it was prior to the long war. In Iraq, security at Camp Liberty had to be enhanced.

Union of Arab Jurists said that the enforcement of human rights required stability and an atmosphere of peace and international collaboration that was far from foreign intervention in domestic affairs. The threat of military force outside of international legitimacy in Syria was a clear violation of the rights of a sovereign Member State of the United Nations.

Liberation said that in conflicts, resolution dialogue was a tool that was surely to be encouraged. Without resolving the core issues of conflicts, resolutions were imperfect. In India there were a number of unresolved conflicts with ambiguity as the main ingredient.

Institute for Women’s Studies and Research said women carried biological, social and economic responsibilities and these led to their targeting and abuse in conflict situations. Rape, flogging and torture of women were among the outcomes. War was not the first solution in conflict, but neither were economic sanctions which could also have the same result.

United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said Baluchistan was being ruled by an appointed body that did not represent its people and the rights of those people were being violated, particularly with regard to exploitation of natural resources in the region. The perpetrators of these abuses had to be brought to account.

Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran said violence against women was one of the most common forms of human rights violations and that in some societies, acts of violence against women were considered a normal state of relations between men and women. Measures taken might include ranking countries according to the status of women.

Society for Threatened Peoples noted that there was an encouraging trend towards the universal abolition of the death penalty. The question of the death penalty was linked with several fundamental human rights. All trials must be conducted via a free and open judiciary and under the scrutiny of civil society, independent media, and the public in general.

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that the Dalits were subject to various forms of unlawful discrimination in most parts of India. Dalits were subject to both social exclusion and economic discrimination. The Centre called on the international community to ask the Indian Government to end this discrimination.

Global Helping to Advance Women and Children said that it was compelled as a matter of principle to oppose funding of programmes that facilitated abortion, a clear violation of the right to life. Family planning reduced fertility rates, but it was not clear that significantly low fertility rates enhanced development in a sustainable way.

Agence Internationale pour le développement said it was concerned about the absence of monitoring, transparency and accounting mechanisms regarding the provision of assistance to refugees in a number of regions of the world, especially in Tindouf and in the Syrian camps. The media forgot the need for objectivity and had tried to deceive public opinion.

Japense Workers’ Committee for Human Rights said that the Japanese military had established the so-called ‘comfort women’ system during World War II. The Government of Japan had failed to accept legal responsibility and had opposed victim survivors’ efforts to obtain truth, justice and reparation until now.

France Libertés Fondation Danielle Mitterrand said that development through economic growth showed a lack of consideration of human rights, including the right to water. Water was a constituent element of life. Strengthening the legal protection of indigenous peoples was essential. The Council was urged to encourage Member States to incorporate the right to water in their legislation.

Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine et Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples said that serious violations had taken place in camps in southern Algeria (Tindouf), and aid destined for the camps had not been delivered there. Children and the elderly were suffering. The distribution of food had become a weapon. An international inquiry should be established.

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said people had the right to enjoy proportionate, if not equal, economic opportunity; therefore sanctions, such as those on the Iranian people, violated the right to development. These were not legal acts. As a non-governmental organization in Iran, the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence saw the effects of sanctions on the ground and called for them to stop.

Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale said that three generations of Sahwaris had been denied the right to education. Women in the Tindouf camp were being denied education, forced into labour, separated from their children and families and subject to other clear violations of their rights. The international community had to intervene.

Prevention Association of Social Harms said that in view of the imposition of harsh sanctions against Iran, most drug companies were in practice refusing sales of drugs and medical equipment needed for Iranian children. Due to Iranians’ inaccessibility to the main international banking systems, any possibilities of financial transactions were impossible.

Under the Same Sun said that the High Commissioner’s report on persons with albinism highlighted the experiences of many persons with albinism, who lived in constant fear for their lives. Because of widespread beliefs in witchcraft, persons living with albinism lived under threat.

International Buddhist Relief Organization said that the Indian military enjoyed impunity in north-east Indian territories. In addition those territories were kept out of major development projects. All relevant Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council should focus closely on the situation in this area.

International Fellowship of Reconciliation welcomed the initiative to introduce a resolution on conscientious objection to military service. Was the defence of a State really strengthened by forcing a gun to the hands of a young man? Positive moves in Armenia and Azerbaijan were noted but conscientious objectors were still persecuted elsewhere, including in Israel and Eritrea.

Right of Reply

China, speaking in a right of reply, said that it categorically rejected the groundless allegations and politicized attacks leveled by the Society of Threatened Peoples and other non-governmental organizations. China was a country with a rule of law. Perpetrators of any acts that violated Chinese laws and constituted crimes were held accountable, according to the law. Nobody could be an exception under any pretext. China was opposed to all forms of terrorism. It its efforts to combat terrorism, China fully guaranteed human rights and dealt with terrorists on the basis of evidence, according to the law.

Mauritania, speaking in a right of reply, referred to a statement by United Nations Watch that said that a large number of persons in Mauritania lived in a state of slavery. Mauritania rejected those allegations. In Mauritania, there had been practices of slavery like in other countries. However, the authorities had been conducting a war against those practices, and had adopted a law that incriminated the phenomenon, as slavery was a crime against humanity and had no statute of limitations. It could not be said that legislation in Mauritania favoured slavery. Islam was at the source of Mauritania’s legislation, and Islam had come to free mankind from slavery. The international community was invited to visit Mauritania and see what the real situation was.

Documentation

The Council has before it a note by the Secretariat regarding the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons on the situation of internally displaced persons in the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/24/58).

The Council has before it a note by the Secretary-General on protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons: situation of internally displaced persons in the Syrian Arab Republic (A/67/931).

The Council has before it the report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/24/46). The report covers investigations conducted from 15 May to 15 July 2013 based on 258 interviews and additional evidence and documents violations committed by both Government and anti-government groups. In the report, the Commission renews its previous recommendations and emphasizes a number of recommendations addressed to all parties, the Government of Syria and the international community, stressing the view that there is no military solution to this conflict and a political solution founded on the tenets of the final communiqué of the Action Group for Syria (the Geneva communiqué) is the only path to peace.

The Council has before it a thematic conference paper of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic on assault on medical care in Syria (A/HRC/24/CRP.2), which notes that the deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel and transports, the denial of access to medical care, and ill-treatment of the sick and wounded, has been one of the most alarming features of the Syrian conflict. As documented in the Commission’s previous reports, both Government forces and anti-Government armed groups have employed siege warfare, preventing the passage of humanitarian aid and basic necessities, including medicine and medical supplies, which have long-term repercussions on the ability of entire communities to treat war-related and chronic healthcare problems.

[Arabic only] The Council has before it a note verbale dated 29 July 2013, from the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations at Geneva to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/24/G/2).

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons and the Commission of Inquiry on Syria

CHALOKI BEYANI, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, said that in May 2013, the United Nations General Assembly requested his mandate, on an exceptional basis, to submit a report within 90 days on the “situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Syria” and to provide recommendations. This report, based on a desk review of existing information, covered the deterioration of the situation of human rights in Syria, and the need to grant immediate access to the Commission of Inquiry. Last week the High Commissioner had reiterated an urgent call for States, together with the United Nations, to find a way to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table. Serious concerns regarding the use of chemical agents in the conflict in Syria were now at issue and were being investigated, even as the circumstances of their usage had still to be determined. Among the most vulnerable of the millions of Syrians suffering in this conflict were the estimated 4.25 million persons internally displaced within the country, who without adequate shelter and humanitarian assistance would be at even greater risk with the coming of winter.

All indications suggested that humanitarian needs had risen dramatically due to large-scale displacement, as well as the destruction of infrastructure and the unravelling of public services. Patterns of displacement continued to be massive and fluid. Most internally displaced persons fled their homes without personal effects or documentation. The majority (85 per cent) stayed with relatives, friends and host communities, who had provided the bulk of available support. Many hosting centres, often in urban areas, had received a large influx of internally displaced persons, stretching resources to the point of collapse. Gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by Government forces and dissident armed groups continued to drive mass displacement. There were concerns about the sustainability of humanitarian funding, should the conflict be significantly prolonged. When a political solution was reached, Syria would require support for its recovery. This would be critical to ensure that internally displaced persons could be assisted in rebuilding their lives. Donors had to continue to give funding. The right of internally displaced persons to asylum in other countries had to be affirmed. Humanitarian needs in Syria were beyond the collective capacity of humanitarian actors. More enhanced humanitarian efforts were needed. Durable solutions to displacement would require innovative measures and support by various sectors of the international community, including development actors. As a matter of absolute priority, for the sake of Syria and all those affected by the conflict, and for present and future generations, a peaceful international-led solution had to be found.

PAULO PINHEIRO, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, presenting the updated report, said that fighting raged on in Syria. Civilians across the country daily faced indiscriminate shelling and bombardment by Government forces. Many towns and villages remained besieged, while torture was systematically employed in Government detention centres. Extremist anti-Government armed groups had targeted civilians in attacks across the northern governorates and the methods of warfare used spread terror among the civilian population. The vast majority of the conflict’s casualties resulted from unlawful attacks using conventional weapons such as guns and mortars. Nevertheless, the debate over what international action to take, if any, had assumed new urgency following the alleged use of chemical weapons on 21 August. The Commission, while awaiting the report of the United Nations Mission to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons, was continuing its investigations regarding the perpetrator of the attacks and would report to the Council according to its mandate.

Over six million people were refugees or internally displaced persons. More than two million had crossed the borders, seeking safety in neighbouring countries. Millions more had left their homes, braving shelling and the dangers of the ever-present checkpoints, to seek shelter inside Syria. The Government had continued its relentless campaign of air bombardment and artillery shelling across the country. The Government should take steps to release children from detention or to transfer them to a juvenile justice system consistent with both fair trial and children’s rights. Both anti-Government armed groups and Government forces continued to launch attacks on medical personnel and hospitals. Syria had become an increasingly dangerous place for journalists to work. A disturbing pattern of harassment, arrest and detention of journalists, especially foreigners, had emerged.

Across northern Syria, there had been an upsurge in crimes and abuses committed by extremist anti-Government armed groups along with an influx of foreign fighters. Entire brigades were now made up from fighters who had crossed into Syria. Failure to bring about a settlement had allowed the conflict not only to deepen in its intransigence but also to widen – expanding to new actors and to unimaginable crimes. Supplies of weapons to all sides had enabled escalation of the conflict, and with it, jeopardised the protection of civilians. Arms transfers should not occur where there was a real risk that they would be used in the commission of crimes against humanity, violations of international humanitarian law, or war crimes. In Syria, this was a tragic reality.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that the Commission of Inquiry continued to stray in the labyrinth of exaggeration and reliance on unverified reports. Syria had advised the Commission to act on the basis of truth and objectivity. More than 250 communications and documents had been provided to the Commission, but had been ignored. The Commission continued to ignore the negative effect of the unjust economic sanctions imposed on the people of Syria that had caused many economic and social crises, and the migration of Syrians to neighbouring countries. Regarding the destruction of its own health infrastructure, this was cheap misguidance. There was no country that would destroy its own infrastructure and Syria did not a need a certificate of good conduct from the Commission. The principle of the right of a State to protect its people had also been ignored. A small positive step by the Commission however, was its indication of the conformity of the position of Saudi Arabia with the position of Al Qaeda. It was hoped that in future the Commission would find the candour and courage to indicate that Turkey and Qatar were implicated. Syria had cooperated fully with the Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons and had extended an invitation, which had not taken place for reasons unknown. The Special Rapporteur had not obtained credible and documented information, so Syria wondered why he had not undertaken a visit to the country.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced persons and the Commission of Inquiry on Syria

European Union said the Commission of Inquiry on Syria had to be allowed to enter Syria so that it could complete its work. The European Union was deeply concerned by systematic violations of human rights by the Government of Syria, and abuses committed by the opposition. The use of chemical weapons was condemned, and the international community could not remain idle. Geneva II peace talks had to move ahead swiftly. Given the rapidly-changing situation on the ground, how might the Human Rights Council further support Mr. Pinheiro’s mandate?

Kuwait said that the report of the Commission of Inquiry indicated that grave violations of human rights and even crimes against humanity had become widespread in Syria. The use of chemical weapons was condemned and Kuwait supported all measures to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice. Concerted international action had to be undertaken to provide aid to surrounding countries hosting refugees, and to the internally displaced persons who were suffering as a result of the conflict.

Malaysia said that two-and-a-half years had passed since the Council had first discussed human rights abuses in Syria: however these had continued, intensified and become more complex. The use of chemical weapons was clearly a crime against humanity and Malaysia welcomed the United States-Russia initiative to bring chemical weapons in Syria under international control. Humanitarian assistance had to continue to be provided to those whose lives depended on it.

Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, regretted that the Commission of Inquiry was not allowed to enter the Syrian territory and condemned the inhumane massacres using illegal chemical weapons. The Syrian regime was responsible for this heinous crime. Necessary measures had to be taken to put an end to the mass murders being committed since two years. The international community had to enable the Syrian population to defend itself by all means and to provide assistance to refugees. The Gulf Cooperation Council supported all international measures to deter Syria from continuing the massacres. Firm decisions were needed to stop the bloodshed and help the Syrian people achieve democracy and human dignity.

Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, expressed its rejection of the use of chemical weapons, whoever used them. The Community urged those who had proof of the use of chemical weapons to hand them to the Commission of Inquiry. If chemical weapons were used, those responsible must not remain unpunished. The Community called for the respect of international humanitarian law and the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter. It called for an end of attacks against the civilian population. Finally, the Community urged the Secretary-General to call for an international conference on Syria.

Ecuador expressed its solidarity with the Syrian people. Ecuador reiterated that the principle of non-interference in internal affairs was enshrined in international law. The international community should support strictly diplomatic efforts to solve the problem. Ecuador agreed with the Commission that both sides were responsible for the human rights violations, but regretted that the report only focused on violations committed by the Government forces.

Turkey said that it was deeply saddened that the violence in Syria kept escalating and new elements continued to multiply. The Human Rights Council could not ignore the tragic date of 21 August. Apart from the horrific chemical aspect, the Syrian regime continued to kill its people through conventional weapons. The Human Rights Council and the wider international community had to come together to speak in a unified voice against the most deplorable human rights violations and humanitarian calamity this century had witnessed.

Venezuela said that it was sad to hear about the loss of lives as a result of the conflict gripping Syria and expressed solidarity with the people and Government of Syria. Venezuela had categorically condemned any external attempt to intervene militarily in Syria on the basis of the alleged chemical attack. Venezuela was concerned that in the name of human rights and alleged humanitarian initiatives, military aggression was being justified in violation of the sacrosanct right to peace.

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For use of the information media; not an official record