Human Rights Council
16 September 2013
The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued its interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
In the discussion, speakers supported the work of the Commission of Inquiry and called for it to be granted access to Syria. They also called for full and unimpeded humanitarian access to be ensured. Serious concern and vehement condemnations were expressed about the use of chemical weapons, which were prohibited under international law and which added an unforgiveable element of severity. Concerns were also voiced about the manifold violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Syria, including the increase in unlawful killings, hostage-taking, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence, summary executions, and the deliberate targeting of hospitals and medical personnel by both sides. For more than two years, the most heinous crimes against humanity had been perpetrated with complete impunity, with a particularly appalling impact on children, who were being made the victims of torture, abduction and even execution, among others. The international community could not remain silent in the face of the deterioration of the Syrian conflict, where the rights of the most vulnerable were being trampled on by all parties to this conflict.
Speakers also said that the growing number of refugees heavily affected their host countries who were keeping their borders open and the international community should do what it could to support them. While some speakers noted that the human rights abuses committed by the opposition did not reach the intensity or scale of those committed by Government forces, others stated that all atrocities were to be condemned in the strongest terms. There were numerous calls for referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. All parties were called upon to immediately cease violence and urgently enter negotiations. The agreement in Geneva on the placement of Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles under control and their destruction was welcomed but now had to be implemented. Only a just and inclusive political solution could put an end to the conflict and those who supplied arms created but an illusion of victory.
Speaking in the discussion were Italy, Romania, Iran, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, United States, Qatar, Egypt, Croatia, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Slovakia, Guatemala, Jordan, Argentina, Canada, Maldives, South Africa, Albania, Thailand, Ireland, Brazil, Indonesia, France, United Kingdom, Estonia, Cuba, Japan, Tunisia, Netherlands, Latvia, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Norway, China, Nigeria, Austria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, El Salvador, Portugal, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Chile, Belarus, Australia, Holy See, Denmark, Poland, Libya, Paraguay, Botswana, Republic of Korea, Benin and United Children’s Fund.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Press Emblem Campaign, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, and Union of Arab Jurists also took the floor.
The Human Rights Council will resume its work on Tuesday, 17 September, at 9 a.m., to conclude its interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the situation in Syria, before hearing an oral update by the Commission of Inquiry on the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to be followed by an interactive dialogue.
Interactive Dialogue with Commission of Inquiry on Syria
Italy said that the international community could not remain silent in the face of the deterioration of the Syrian conflict. All atrocities, including those attributed to the Syrian armed forces, were condemned in the strongest terms, particularly the use of chemical weapons. Perpetrators could not expect to act with impunity. Recently, more than 500 Syrians fleeing the conflict had landed on the coast of Sicily and Calabria. All violence must end and peace talks must be reinitiated.
Romania reiterated its support of the Commission of Inquiry’s work and regretted that it had still not been granted access to Syria. Romania strongly condemned all acts of violence on all sides, particularly the abominable use of chemical weapons. It hoped that peace talks could resume quickly under the Geneva II process, and offered support to the work of Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi. Romania called for unimpeded access to Syria for humanitarian organizations and medical staff.
Iran said it was not in a position to support some findings of the Commission of Inquiry, but remained concerned about the use of chemical weapons in the conflict. There was no military solution available. Iran welcomed Syria’s readiness to join the international convention prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, which furthered the need of the Israeli regime to join weapons of mass destruction instruments immediately. A window of opportunity had arisen and the search for peace must be intensified.
Switzerland condemned in the strongest terms the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that continued to be committed in Syria. Only a just and inclusive political solution could put an end to the conflict. Victims had to obtain justice and perpetrators of atrocities must be held accountable. Switzerland thanked the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons for his report and called on all parties to respect the rules of international humanitarian law.
Germany said that the rights of the most vulnerable were being trampled on by all parties to this conflict. Unlawful attacks constituted the main reason for displacement within Syria and the massive number of refugees. In areas no longer under full regime control, emerging groups vying for power showed complete disregard for human rights. Germany demanded that all parties to the conflict fully cooperate with international agencies. Access of the Commission to Syria was long overdue.
Russian Federation said that the Commission was forced to admit the obvious: attacks against civilians, medical facilities and schools were continuing. The protective attitude towards the extremists by some Governments and media increased the attacks. Russia expressed its disappointment that the commissioners had not taken the opportunity to go to Syria when offered to do so. Any military intervention would only increase the sufferings. The Commission should be more objective and seek peace rather than confrontation.
United States called upon the Syrian people to refrain from acts of retributive violence and to focus on building a sustainable peace that included justice and accountability. It shared concern about the growing number of internally displaced persons, including Palestinian refugees in Syria. The Government and all parties to the conflict were urged to facilitate full, immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for the United Nations and other humanitarian partners.
Qatar condemned the Syrian authorities that had not allowed the Commission of Inquiry to enter Syria to discharge its mandate. The party with the principal responsibility for the horrific violations of human rights was the Syrian regime. Excesses and abuses of human rights that had been committed by armed groups could not be compared to the grave and systematic violations perpetrated by the Government forces and forces loyal to it.
Egypt condemned the utilization of violence against civilians, especially the use of internationally prohibited weapons and shelling. These flagrant violations had exceeded all the red lines and made it necessary to identify those responsible and to ensure that they were held accountable. The Syrian regime had to listen to the Syrian people. Military solutions were not useful when it was a matter of people’s enjoyment of their rights and freedoms.
Croatia believed that the international community must take all necessary measures to end the violence against the Syrian people. It was of the utmost importance to ensure full accountability for gross violations of human rights, irrespective of which side committed them. The Security Council must refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. Croatia was particularly appalled by the use of chemical weapons and called, in addition, for all parties to take measures to protect women and girls from sexual violence during the conflict.
United Arab Emirates said the use of chemical weapons was horrific and attacks using them should be denounced as inhuman. Millions of Syria civilians were suffering and the international community could not stand by. Pressure had to be brought to peacefully end the bloodshed. The United Arab Emirates Red Crescent had come to the aid of refugees in Jordan.
Mexico said it had repeatedly denounced the use of chemical weapons by any player in Syria as this was a war crime. Mexico supported the framework agreement reached in Geneva just a few days ago. However the systematic denial of medical care as a weapon of war, as highlighted by the report of the Commission of Inquiry, showed how the wider picture was deteriorating in a most worrying way.
Slovakia regretted that the Commission had not been permitted to enter into Syria. The effective fulfilment of the Commission’s mandate required its full and unhindered access on the ground. The suffering of civilians had reached unbearable levels as the conflict deteriorated. There was an urgency to reach a political solution to the conflict. It was the only way to relieve the suffering of the civilians and start a process of reconciliation.
Guatemala said that for two and a half years, the Council had issued various resolutions and had taken action, including special sessions, on Syria. The Council’s appeals had however fallen on deaf ears. It was necessary to make diplomatic channels a priority and to make sure that perpetrators of atrocities did not remain unpunished. The international community had to provide a clear response in light of the recent massacres. The United States-Russian agreement was welcome but it had to be implemented.
Jordan said that the professionalism of the commissioners was laudable. The report of the Commission of Inquiry shed light on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Syria. Jordan condemned the use of chemical weapons which led to the death of hundreds of civilians. A speedy political solution was needed to put an end to the bloodshed and to realize the aspirations of the Syrian people. Despite its limited resources, Jordan would continue to help to relieve the humanitarian situation.
Argentina said the Commission of Inquiry’s report detailed the manifold violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Syria. It was essential for the parties involved to sit down to negotiate, and that there be an end to hostilities. The possible use of chemical weapons added an unforgiveable element of severity and those responsible had to be judged and punished by the justice system, particularly the International Criminal Court.
Canada was outraged by the chemical weapons attack perpetrated against Syrian civilians. It reiterated its call for the Commission of Inquiry to be allowed access to Syria. Canada urgently called upon all parties to respect the rights of ethnic and religious communities, and to fully comply with their international obligations. They were urged to ensure full, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian actors, so assistance could be provided to all those in need, and to urgently enter into peace negotiations.
Maldives said ongoing events had lately demonstrated that there was no clear military solution to the crisis. It remained deeply alarmed by the increase in unlawful killings, hostage-taking, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence, summary executions and a whole host of other human rights violations committed by both sides. The Maldives noted with alarm the deliberate targeting of hospitals and medical personnel by both sides, which amounted to war crimes.
South Africa said it had consistently expressed its deep concern about the political, socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Syria and its impact on the civilian population. It called for unimpeded access for humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons and all people in need, especially women and children. South Africa was encouraged by the recent developments following a meeting in Geneva between the major players aimed at finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
Albania said the appalling situation of massacres, killings, enforced disappearances, torture and all other forms of extreme violence described by the Commission of Inquiry, together with the recent massive attack using chemical weapons, called for resolute and immediate action. As a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Romania stood firm in supporting politically as well as by all means any decision or action taken by the United States and the North Atlantic alliance to resolve the conflict.
Thailand said it was disappointed by the inability of the Commission of Inquiry to gain access to Syria and urged the Syrian Government to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms. Thailand condemned acts of violence in all forms as committed by the Government of Syria and all parties concerned, and called on them to ensure humanitarian access in Syria and neighbouring countries. The truth of the use of chemical agents and the perpetrators had to be clarified immediately, and the possibility of a Geneva II conference was welcomed.
Ireland said that the Commission’s report showed clearly that the situation in Syria was more urgent and desperate than ever. Ireland condemned the recent chemical weapons attacks. The deliberate use of chemical weapons against civilians was a very serious war crime. Ireland commended efforts to ensure that all chemical weapons in Syria were placed under international control with a view to their destruction, in order to ensure that they were never used again. The United Nations Security Council had to fulfil its responsibility under the United Nations Charter.
Brazil said that the findings of the Commission pointed out, once again, to the deterioration of the situation on the ground, where the most serious crimes and human rights violations continued unabated. Brazil reiterated its unequivocal condemnation of all forms of violence and recalled that the primary responsibility of the Syrian Government was the protection of the population. There was no military solution to the conflict and the use of force was always a last resort measure that could only be authorized by the Security Council, in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
Indonesia said that there was no easy exit, except the immediate negotiation of concrete steps to end the conflict. Those who supplied arms created but an illusion of victory. It was time for all parties in Syria to go back to the negotiating table and for the international community to relinquish their illusion of victory. The Special Rapporteur’s report clearly indicated the magnitude of the humanitarian challenges and the complex measures to address them. Indonesia urged all parties to the conflict to join and participate in the peace process in a constructive spirit.
France demanded that the Syrian authorities allow the Commission of Inquiry access to the territory, which should be reinforced by a strong resolution by the Human Rights Council. Crimes committed in Syria must not go unpunished and France supported the appeal to combat impunity. They must together bring the matter to the International Criminal Court. The only important question today in the Human Rights Council was how to help the Commission gain access to the country.
United Kingdom said the report provided evidence of war crimes being committed by both sides, but had shown that human rights abuses committed by the opposition did not reach the intensity or scale of those committed by Government forces. The United Kingdom strongly believed that the situation in Syria merited referral to the International Criminal Court. The United Kingdom remained committed to achieving a political settlement and called on all sides to immediately end all violence.
Estonia said it was deeply worrying how impunity in Syria deepened and how the perpetrators of violations and crimes did not fear accountability. The growing number of refugees heavily affected their host countries. These countries continued to receive refugees despite running short of resources and growing concerns about their own economy and security. They were keeping their borders open and everyone should do what they could to support them.
Cuba said it was monitoring the situation with regard to Syria in full awareness that the information was often piecemeal and manipulated by certain outside forces for their own interests. Aggression against Syria would exacerbate the situation and be a flagrant act against the United Nations Charter. While all acts of violence were to be condemned, the full sovereignty and right to self-determination of the Syrian people to sort out their own problems without outside interference had to be upheld.
Japan urged the Government of Syria to cooperate fully with the Commission of Inquiry and regretted that a visit to Syria by the Commission had not been accepted. Japan believed it was highly probable that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, and it welcomed the United States-Russia agreement toward the destruction of such weapons. Their use was under no circumstances permissible. The United Nations inspection team should elucidate the relevant facts as soon as possible. An immediate end to all violence was crucial.
Tunisia said the Commission of Inquiry had to continue its efforts to establish the facts as a precursor to holding perpetrators accountable as soon as possible. Tunisia condemned the use of chemical weapons no matter who was the perpetrator and demanded that they be held accountable. The Syrian conflict threatened to destabilise the whole Middle East region and for that reason Tunisia called for continued regional engagement toward a peaceful outcome, as well as supporting all efforts to realise the Geneva II negotiations.
Netherlands said that it remained a challenge for the Commission to report on the situation of human rights in Syria without access to its territory. Peace could only be reached through a political process and justice, which demanded independent investigations. Justice was denied to the Syrian people and the Netherlands called on the Security Council to seize the International Criminal Court.
Latvia said that the continuous crisis demonstrated a complete disregard for human life and international law. Latvia noted with deep concern the Commission’s findings with regard to the use of sexual violence. The suffering of Syria’s civilian population had reached unimaginable levels. Safe access for humanitarian actors was needed. Latvia was appalled by the use of chemical weapons and condemned the use of such weapons by anyone under any circumstances.
Morocco said that the report of the Commission of Inquiry confirmed the deterioration of the situation in Syria. The human rights violations mentioned in the report and committed in total impunity were unacceptable. The conclusions of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced people confirmed that the continuing escalation of violence was leading to more displacement. Morocco condemned the use of chemical weapons against civilians and called on the international community to find a political solution.
Sierra Leone said that there was no military solution to the war and a political solution needed to be found. The risk of the war developing into a regional crisis was real and intensified efforts to negotiate a peace settlement were urgent. Whatever the solution, those responsible for grave human rights abuses had to be brought to justice. Starvation as a method of warfare was prohibited under the law of war and all parties had to allow unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief.
Czech Republic strongly condemned indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment of Syrian towns and villages, including hospitals and areas hosting internally displaced persons, and called for an immediate end of violence with those responsible to be held accountable and brought to justice. In light of the dramatic human rights situation, the Czech Republic called on the Syrian authorities to grant the Commission immediate and unrestricted access to the country.
Angola strongly condemned all use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. It welcomed the agreement in Geneva on the placement of Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles under control and their destruction. Angola reiterated its deep conviction that there could be no military solution to this crisis, only a political one. The international community had to shoulder its responsibility to ensure the safety of the Syrian people.
Saudi Arabia said the Commission of Inquiry had presented important information about the crimes being committed against the people of Syria. Time might pass quickly in the Council today but it passed slowly for the suffering people of Syria. Help had to be forthcoming from the international community to assist the civilian population to combat the violence being perpetrated against them.
Belgium said that the situation in Syria had led to new levels of barbarism. It was particularly appalled to learn that the delivery of humanitarian assistance had been obstructed, and said that attacks on hospitals and medical personnel by Syrian Government forces and its allies were outrageous. Keeping a record of those whom the Commission of Inquiry reasonably believed to be responsible was of crucial importance in the fight against impunity, which was a priority for Belgium.
Norway condemned violations of human rights committed by all sides in Syria, and reports of the use of chemical weapons were alarming. The Commission of Inquiry was encouraged to continue to monitor human rights violations and war crimes committed by all sides. Children’s rights were being violated, including those being sexually victimised and being forced to participate in hostilities; could the Commission of Inquiry say how widespread the recruitment of child soldiers was?
China noted the latest report of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria. China was concerned that the situation had a strong impact on the region. All parties to the conflict had to implement in good spirit the communiqué adopted by the Foreign Ministers of the United States and Russia in Geneva. China was against the use of chemical weapons. China encouraged peace talks and firmly advocated a political solution to the crisis.
Nigeria was deeply concerned with the humanitarian dimension of the conflict, especially the large number of internally displaced Syrians and the hundreds of thousands forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. There was no military solution to the crisis and only a peaceful resolution of the crisis could lay the foundations for genuine reconciliation in Syria. Nigeria reiterated its wish to see, in the very near future, a peaceful, prosperous, united and democratic Syria where human rights were promoted and protected.
Austria deplored the continuous denial to grant access to the Commission of Inquiry. The systematic and widespread human rights violations were committed both by Government and anti-Government forces. The use of chemical weapons was concerning, as well as the use of child soldiers. The Government and armed groups had to ensure safe access to humanitarian actors. A broad diplomatic process was needed to put an end to the conflict.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that human rights issues or disputes had to be resolved through genuine dialogue and cooperation. Any attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of a country under any pretext should not be justified as this was in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and international law and the principle of sovereignty. Politicization, selectivity and double standards should immediately be put to an end.
El Salvador manifested concern for the danger that could result from the situation in Syria worsening and overflowing, as agreements reached at the last minute may not be respected. There had to be a serious professional and comprehensive investigation in Syria to identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons and to combat impunity, and ensure compliance with international human rights and international humanitarian law. Now was the time to replace weapons with food and medicine for the Syrian population.
Portugal called on the authorities to immediately grant the Commission of Inquiry unimpeded access to Syria. For more than two years, the most heinous crimes against humanity had been perpetrated with complete impunity. The impact on children was particularly appalling. Portugal reiterated its call to all parties to provide unrestricted access and protection to humanitarian agencies. It vehemently condemned the use of chemical weapons which constituted an unacceptable violation of international law.
Nicaragua said it was a proactive partisan for the rights of self-determination and sovereignty and was, as a victim of those colonialist powers that had tried to enslave it, a supporter of dialogue between States. In this respect Nicaragua supported all the more strongly the work of the Russian Federation to counter the schemes of those countries that wished to militarily intervene in the conflict in Syria as this would only prolong the war. Nicaragua welcomed Syria’s decision to sign the convention on chemical weapons as a positive step.
New Zealand said it condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and welcomed the United States-Russian agreement that could pave the way to the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria. New Zealand recognised the ongoing human needs of the refugee population of Syria and had contributed more than 5 million New Zealand dollars toward the aid of refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, as well as for people displaced within Syria. New Zealand continued to hold that the crisis should be resolved through the United Nations Security Council.
Chile said that the Commission of Inquiry had presented unassailable evidence of breaches of the minimum standards of human dignity. The standstill in the international community had resulted in irreparable human cost and the fostering of a culture of impunity. Chile therefore agreed with the conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry. It was concerned by the confirmation of the use of chemical weapons, a category of weapon that should never be used. A promising space for dialogue had been recently opened, and an inclusive solution was desired.
Belarus said that the Commission’s report was unbalanced. The methodology used to determine the facts left many questions unanswered. Coherent international efforts were needed to resolve the conflict by political and diplomatic means. It was necessary to convene a “Geneva II” conference in the near future. Belarus was opposed to the use of chemical weapons.
Australia was deeply concerned by the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which was a violation of international law and could not be tolerated. Australia supported measures that would result in the securing and dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons stock. Reports of sexual violence in detention centres by government forces were particularly disturbing. Australia was appalled by the recruitment of under-aged soldiers, by both pro and anti-government groups.
Holy See said that respect for human dignity was necessary. Destruction and pain continued to be witnessed. The population had no access to adequate food and shelter. The initiative to place chemical weapons under international control was positive. The rebuilding of trust was the only reasonable option. The Holy See encouraged parties to pursue negotiations in a constructive spirit.
Denmark was deeply concerned by the findings of the report. Those responsible for these heinous crimes had to be held accountable. The United States-Russian agreement was welcomed and the Syrian Government was urged to comply without delay. Both parties were urged to allow safe and unimpeded access for cross-border humanitarian operations. Innocent children were being made the victims of torture, abduction and even execution, as well as malnutrition. Could the Commission elaborate on the use of children in hostilities?
Poland was appalled by the escalation of human rights violations that mostly affected defenseless civilians, and underscored the necessity to safeguard the evidence. Those responsible had to be held accountable. It supported efforts to put Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles under international control and expected Syria to accede to the convention on chemical weapons without delay. What steps may be taken by the Council to facilitate the Commission’s work?
Libya said that the Syrian crisis was one of the most egregious humanitarian crises lately. Libya condemned the violence against the Syrian people, including women and children, and the forced displacement, as well the high number of losses. International efforts aiming at placing the Syrian chemical weapons under international control were welcomed. Libya believed this accord would provide a more conducive atmosphere to reach a political settlement.
Paraguay reiterated its gravest concern over the Syrian conflict and regretted the tragedy of the use of chemical weapons no matter who had used them. The diplomatic route was the only way forward and therefore Paraguay welcomed last weekend’s developments in Geneva and hoped the Syrian Government’s signing up to the convention on chemical weapons was a sincere move. Paraguay was also horrified by the reported attacks on medical personnel and called for their immediate cessation.
Botswana said refugees and internally displaced persons were in dire need of humanitarian assistance. What was more alarming was that the parties to the conflict had made it part of their war tactics to target those trying to provide such assistance and medical care. It agreed with the Commission of Inquiry that a military solution would come at a very high price. Botswana condemned the use of chemical weapons and welcomed last weekend’s United States-Russia agreement.
Republic of Korea said the recent findings on the use of chemical weapons in Syria were both shocking and disturbing. It welcomed the United States-Russia agreement and called upon the Syrian Government to promptly and thoroughly implement its obligations under the agreement. In addition, it was critical that all parties complied with humanitarian obligations as more than six million refugees and internally displaced persons were in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
Benin said that the killings and the large number of refugees and internally displaced persons required taking urgent measures. Every day, shortages of food and water were reported. The recommendations of the Commission were important and could contribute to a resolution of the crisis. The terms of the agreement reached recently should serve as the basis of the settlement of this conflict.
UNICEF said that the number of child refugees had increased from 70,000 to more than one million in less than a year. The parties to the conflict had to protect children and their families. In particular, they must respect the prohibition against the use and recruitment of children; the obligation to distinguish between civilian and military objectives; and the obligation not to block impartial humanitarian assistance to civilians.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom said that there were deaths as a direct consequence of the conflict, but there would be more as a result of extreme poverty. This would concern mainly children, women and the elderly as basic social and economic rights eroded and priority was given to fighters. The Security Council should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court to ensure that impunity would not prevail.
Press Emblem Campaign said that again this year Syria was the deadliest country in the world with 11 media workers killed. Press Emblem Campaign was particularly concerned about the growing phenomenon of abduction and vigorously denounced the inhuman or degrading treatment imposed on journalists, including fake executions, and called on all factions involved in the conflict to release all journalists and media workers.
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists reiterated its call to refer the conflict to the International Criminal Court to ensure accountability for the crimes being committed in Syria and urged States in the Council to ensure an immediate cease-fire by any means including an urgent appeal to the Security Council.
Union of Arab Jurists said that the Commission considered that the Syrian authorities were primarily responsible for the violence in Syria. It timidly referred to activities by armed groups which opposed the Government. The report did not say that behind these armed groups, there were Western and regional countries that were arming, hosting and sending them to Syria.
For use of the information media; not an official record