16 September 2014
Concludes General Debate on Thematic Reports and on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights
The Human Rights Council today held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
The Council also concluded the general debate on the thematic reports by the High Commissioner and the United Nations Secretary-General and on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, introducing the report, said that the war worsened every day and that he had run out of words to depict the gravity of the crimes committed inside Syria. The Commission continued to listen to and record the anguish of Syrian women, men and children whose voices shined a piercing light upon the brutal crimes being committed daily. It had implored the parties and influential States to forge a peaceful settlement, and asked the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, but had been faced with inaction which had allowed the warring parties to operate with impunity and nourished the violence that had consumed Syria.
Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that once again the report of the Commission was politicized and unprofessional. It had turned a blind eye to the daily suffering of thousands of Syrians because of armed groups. If one persisted in this selective approach, it would be difficult to arrive at credible conclusions. One should accept the fact that the fight against terrorism was the only way to bring about reconciliation. Syria reaffirmed its rejection of reports and conclusions coming from the Commission of Inquiry.
In the discussion that followed, speakers expressed serious concern at the growing number of victims and the gravity of violations and crimes and reiterated their deep concern about the expansion of the war zone and the increase in the flow of arms which contributed to the continuation of the war. The scale and cruelty of abuses committed in Syria was indeed appalling. Terror and dramatic scenes that all had thought humanity would never see again had become a daily reality. The findings of the report were deeply troubling, including the regime of terror by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, public executions, the fate of persons belonging to religious and ethnic minorities and the spread of extremism. Speakers strongly condemned the continuation of targeting of civilians and civilian targets and the use of chlorine, and called on the international community to ask for accountability for the authors of those crimes. There was an imperative need to cease all hostilities, to interrupt the provision of arms to all parties, and to provide timely and sufficient humanitarian assistance to the victims. The Syrian authorities were called upon to grant the Commission immediate and unrestricted access to the country.
Speaking in the discussion were European Union, Poland, Jordan, Russia, United States, Morocco, Tunisia, Austria, United Kingdom, Algeria, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Qatar, Bahrain, Netherlands, China, France, Slovakia, Belgium, Germany, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Portugal, New Zealand, Ecuador, Venezuela, Australia, Bulgaria, Cuba, Republic of Korea, Japan, Thailand, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, Ireland, Iceland, Romania, Sudan, Malaysia, Czech Republic, Greece, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Estonia, Chile, Iran, Denmark, Iraq, Botswana, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Maldives.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Cairo Institute to Human Rights Studies, Press Emblem Campaign, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, United Nations Watch, Sudwind and Syriac Universal Alliance.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on the thematic reports by the High Commissioner and the United Nations Secretary-General and on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
In the general debate, speakers said the right to development was of prime importance and called upon the Council to ensure that it studied implementation of this right in the field, with clear objectives and indicators to monitor progress. The Council was the only forum where human rights violations could be addressed and too often attention had been diverted to definition of human rights and away from victims. Speakers also expressed concern about, among others, cases of arbitrary detention; torture and ill treatment of human rights defenders and political activists by State security agents; systematic violence against minorities; the human rights consequences of the current drug policy; the emergence of terrorism as a human rights violator; and journalists and media workers’ exposure to human rights abuse.
Speaking were Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme, Franciscans International, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Friends World Committee for Consultation, Action Canada for Population and Development, Alsalam Foundation, Organisation for Defending Victims of Violence, African Technical Association, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale, World Barua Organization, African Technology Development Link, Africa Culture Internationale, Liberation, World Environment and Resources Council, International Muslim Women’s Union, Il Cenacolo, Auspice Stella, Conectas Direitos Humanos in a joint statement, European Centre for Law and Justice, World Evangelical Alliance, International Institute for Peace, Centre for Reproductive Rights, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Article 19 International Centre against Censorship, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, European Union of Public Relations, United Nations Watch, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights Now, Indian Council of South America, International Catholic Child Bureau, Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network, International Educational Development, International Service for Human Rights, Agence Internationale pour le Developpement, British Humanist Association, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, World Muslim Congress, Centre for Inquiry, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Institut International pour la paix, la justice et les droits de l’homme, Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme, Amnesty International, Action Internationale Pour la Paix et le Developpement dans la Region des Grands Lacs, Organisation Mondiale des Associations pour l’Education Prenatale, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Lawyers for Lawyers, International Buddhist Relief Organization, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, and International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.
The general debate started on 15 September and a summary of the statements can be found here.
Belarus, China, and Viet Nam, spoke in a right of reply to comments made under the agenda item on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
The Human Rights Council at 2 p.m. will hold a general debate on human rights situations requiring the Council's attention, before beginning an interactive dialogue with the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.
General Debate on Thematic Reports and the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights
Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme strongly condemned the obstacles placed by Viet Nam in the path of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief during his visit in July this year. The Special Rapporteur was constantly followed by policemen; this violated the confidentiality of conversations.
Franciscans International in a joint statement drew attention to unresolved issues of freedom of expression in Papua and West Papua, Indonesia, especially for journalists. Local journalists were often under surveillance by security forces observing their journalistic activities.
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said bold and independent journalism was vital in any democratic society. However, much of the Commonwealth remained a very dangerous place for journalists. It endorsed the conclusion that all States had to ensure that their domestic legal framework was firmly grounded in international human rights law.
Friends World Committee for Consultation welcomed the attention given to the children of those sentenced to death or executed. The impact that a parental death sentence had on a child’s well-being was becoming more known. The execution of a parent was a form of violence against their children, inflicted by the State, and clearly preventable.
Action Canada for Population and Development said that systemic forms of discrimination against women, sex workers, sexually active adolescents and persons with non-conforming sexualities and gender identity were rooted in the enforcement of gender and sexual stereotypes and patriarchal norms.
Alsalam Foundation in a joint statement presented the situation of a child held in prison in Bahrain after he participated in a peaceful protest when he was six years old. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and subjected to torture by Bahraini authorities. Through a letter to the Council, this prisoner called on the Human Rights Council to call upon the Bahraini Government to release all child political prisoners in the country.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that Iranian people had suffered grave human rights violations due to the international sanctions imposed on Iran, including violations of their right to development and to health. The United Nations could not expect Iran to be able to fulfil its international human rights obligations with the imposition of international economic sanctions.
African Technical Association expressed concerns that Pakistani authorities were systematically curbing the right to education of the Baloch people. Schools were recently burned right under the nose of the security forces there, and Baloch women were victims of acid attacks. Pakistan, in collaboration with China, had violated the rights of the Baloch people, and had to grant them self-determination.
Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale suggested that the right to development should be considered to be of prime importance and called upon the Council to ensure that it studied implementation of this right in the field, with clear objectives and indicators to monitor progress. It was important to remove obstacles to development.
World Barua Organization spoke for those in India that were meted out inhumane and unequal treatment in society. They were facing an ordeal where corruption was rampant in society and the rights of minorities were continuously neglected. Draconian laws were enacted and army, police and intelligence resources were used as tools of power to coerce the already marginalised minorities.
African Technology Development Link said that human rights should be protected by the rule of law, yet Pakistan continued to deny rights in Gilgit Baltistan. Escalating protests had exposed the existence of deep animosity against Islamabad. Pakistan administered Gilgit Baltistan through ad-hoc ordinances which denied Constitutional rights.
Africa Culture Internationale said that it promoted the right to development, but this was far from being achieved, and made particular reference to Sub-Saharan Africa. The term was of huge relevance but had not been sufficiently taken into account by those that first had to worry about lack of food security and increase in diseases.
Liberation condemned the caste system in India that led to minorities such as Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and ethnic non-entities having their rights and voices ignored in the name of active diplomacy. The army, paramilitary, police and intelligence agencies exercised the worst forms of exploitation on minorities to keep them suppressed.
World Environment and Resources Council expressed concerns about the recent killing of activists in Pakistan. In 2014, more than 50 Sindhi political activists had been forcibly disappeared. Violence against religious minorities had increased due to State support to violent religious extremism in Sindh. The Pakistani State had to be urged to stop atrocities against people, release all the disappeared political activists and investigate cases of extrajudicial killings against indigenous Sindhi Hindus.
International Muslim Women’s Union said that the human rights situation in Indian occupied Kashmir had not seen any improvement. Incidents of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances showed that the situation was indeed worsening there. Injustice and atrocities continued, and perpetrators had not been held accountable. The Human Rights Council should urge India to accept an international investigation of the unmarked mass graves issue associated with enforced disappearances.
Il Cenacolo gave the floor to a blind Cuban lawyer who spoke about beatings and arbitrary detention and being held without trial because he had held a human rights congress. He also spoke about torture and ill treatment of other human rights defenders and political activists by Cuban State security agents.
Auspice Stella drew the attention of the Human Rights Council to the situation of the Mapuche community in Chile who were protesting against hydroelectric projects which would flood their indigenous and ancestral land, including graveyard sites. Chile had an obligation to consult with indigenous peoples before approving development projects in the areas they lived in.
Conectas Direitos Humanos expressed concern in a joint statement about the human rights consequences of the current drug policy, which increased current social gaps. Latin America was an example of this where the war against drug trafficking had led to increasing militarisation, displacement of populations and deterioration of basic social services. The Council should bear in mind the interaction between drug policies and human rights and hold a dialogue on the subject.
European Centre for Law and Justice said that one of the many cases addressed in the Working Group on arbitrary detention’s report was that of Saeed Abedini, a dual Iranian national sentenced to eight years for exercising his fundamental rights. As legal representatives for his family, the Centre had first-hand knowledge of the arbitrary nature of his detention and called on Iran to act on the Working Group’s recommendations.
World Evangelical Alliance said the way minorities were treated in a nation was a litmus test for human rights. It condemned the systematic violence against minority communities in Iraq and Syria. There could never be any justification whatsoever for this indiscriminate persecution of minority communities that had lived in the region for 2,000 years or considerably more.
International Institute for Peace said that the recent horrific beheadings of two American journalists by the Islamic State were a stark manifestation of the emergence of terrorism as a violator of human rights. It was time for the Council to devote further attention as to why certain States had encouraged fundamentalism and extremism as State policy
Centre for Reproductive Rights expressed concerns that maternal deaths still claimed the lives of 800 women and girls each day, almost exclusively in developing countries. This was connected to gender and other social inequalities. Strategies to improve maternal health should therefore aim to elevate the status of women and reduce social disparities, empower women, improve women’s education and combat child marriage.
Sudwind said that 112 States had not yet ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, and called on all States, including Iran, to do so. Iran still executed people for blasphemy and acts of apostasy.
Article 19 said that journalists and media workers were exposed to human rights abuse, organized crime, corruption and other serious forms of wrongdoings. States had to prevent and prohibit attacks and violations against journalists through the adoption of effective legal frameworks and ensure training of law enforcement authorities. States also had to protect journalists through special mechanisms tailored to regional, local and individual circumstances and challenges.
Commission to Study the Organization of Peace said that the report of the High Commissioner on genocide should have included the massacre of Bengalis by Pakistan, as well as its prosecution of Shiite Muslims and Hazara communities. All this had made Pakistan one of the most dangerous places for religious minorities.
European Union of Public Relations was extremely concerned about the continuing turmoil in Afghanistan which threatened to destabilize the whole region. The real failure of the international coalition fighting terrorism was to allow Pakistan to continue to harbour and provide safe heavens to terrorists.
United Nations Watch said that the Council was the only forum where human rights violations could be addressed and too often attention had been diverted to the definition of human rights and away from victims. It was time for the Human Rights Council to start addressing the most serious human rights violations and the victims of such violations, including in Sudan, Viet Nam, Pakistan, Venezuela, and other countries.
CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation in a joint statement reiterated the Summary Report on the Civil Society Space Panel’s clear message that civil society was an essential pillar of any democratic society and an indispensable partner of the Council, whose space needed to be both promoted and protected in accordance with international human rights law. Yet, this space was actively being eroded and threatened.
Human Rights Now shared the serious concern expressed by other speakers on the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the intensified conflicts in Iraq and Palestine and regretted that the international community, including the Council, had failed to take an effective step to prevent the escalation at an early stage.
Indian Council of South America said that the corporate state of Alaska, without proper title or dominion, sold resources and subsistence to the highest bidder. All indigenous peoples in Alaska were human rights defenders denied their right to self-determination, their right to subsistence, and their way of life. They diplomatically protested the illegal annexation of Alaska and Hawaii.
International Catholic Child Bureau underlined the negative impact of non- registration of births, including in Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Togo, and called on those States to ensure free registration, establish systems to remedy problems, and undertake progressive digitalisation of the registration systems.
Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network said that pre-trial detention had to be limited and used only in specific circumstances. The report of the Working Group on arbitrary detention on China had highlighted the Chinese authorities’ punishment of peaceful protests, including in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
International Educational Development considered the right to self-determination a fundamental base for human rights, and regretted the lack of attention on this right by the Council. The situations in India’s Kashmir and Sikh regions were of high concern, and India had to be urged to stop human rights violations there and hold perpetrators accountable.
International Service for Human Rights deplored increasing trends of threats and intimidation against human rights defenders and civil society activists and cited the case of six human rights defenders killed in the Philippines for working on the issue of corporate social responsibility. The Council should formulate recommendations to States to provide adequate responses to communications concerning such cases.
Agence Internationale pour le Developpement spoke about the efforts of Morocco to ensure economic, social and cultural rights in the Western Sahara, saying that the Sahrawi enjoyed the same rights as all citizens of Morocco. Significant progress had been made in economic and social rights in southern provinces, including in the area of housing, education, health and work.
British Humanist Association said that the States that failed to provide legislative protection from early, child and forced marriages for the children within their jurisdiction were complicit in the continuation of practices amounting to modern day slavery and must be recognized and criticized as such. Any justification for this practice provided by cultural relativism or religious pretext was merely a pretext for oppressive policies.
BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights strongly condemned the killing of journalists during the most recent Israeli operation ‘Protective Edge’ in Gaza. International law afforded journalists the same protection as civilians in times of conflict. States had an obligation to investigate violations of international law and quickly prosecute those responsible.
World Muslim Congress said that different regimes, including democracies and occupying powers, used administrative detention and justified their use as a preventive action to assure security. In practice, the main motivating factor was to suppress the people’s resistance against injustice and subjugation. Indian authorities in Indian Occupied Kashmir used administrative detention to suppress the peaceful resistance.
Centre for Inquiry said that Pakistan had sought to restrict freedom of expression in May this year by censoring posts and accounts on Twitter under its blasphemy laws. These laws were often used in Pakistan to justify human rights violations, from violence and killing to cracking down on dissent.
Ma’arij Foundation for Peace and Development in a joint statement underlined the importance of promoting balanced and sustainable development for all people and of ensuring the realisation of the right to development. It called upon the Council to issue a clear resolution that condemned and prevented countries from imposing unilateral sanctions on developing countries, which were hindering the development of peoples and nations.
Institut International pour la Paix, la Justice et les Droits de l’Homme in a joint statement said that the current model of development was unequal, unstable and unsustainable and needed urgent revision. It was imperative that the post-2015 development agenda was aligned with a human rights-based approach that recognised every human being’s right to development. Transnational corporations also bore responsibility for the realisation of the right to development.
Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme said that the Ebola virus, due to the lack of international solidarity and the lack of infrastructure, had had a terrible impact on human rights and continued to spread in West Africa. All economic progress in those countries would be threatened if nothing was done now. It called for the rapid adoption of emergency measures and strengthening health structures.
Amnesty International called on the Council to support the provision of detailed guidance to States to ensure that the death penalty was not imposed on persons with mental health issues. Effective strategies on maternal mortality must empower women and girls to control their bodies and Amnesty International called on all States to tackle root causes of maternal mortality and morbidity by eliminating gender discrimination in sexual and reproductive health services.
Action Internationale pour Latin America Paix et le Développement dans la Région des Grand Lacs said that there were Sahrawis who rejected separatism and highlighted the efforts of Morocco to ensure the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights of all its citizens. Morocco also ensured the respect for the provision of international humanitarian law and promoted the culture of human rights.
Organisation Mondiale des Associations pour l’Education Prénatale said that the right to self-determination was a prerequisite for all other rights which had led the people all over the globe to find their destiny. Unfortunately, there were still occupied areas where people were denied their right to self-determination granted to them by the United Nations, including in Jammu and Kashmir whose right to self-determination was denied by India.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that the importance of respecting the promotion and protection of all human rights needed no emphasis. All humans around the globe had civil and political rights. There had to be a universal system of protecting these. It requested the Council to encourage India to respect human rights and international conventions.
Lawyers for Lawyers requested the Council to call on Viet Nam to abide by Opinions of the Working Group on arbitrary detention. Viet Nam did not protect its lawyers and did not comply with the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. On the contrary, human rights defenders were intimidated, harassed and detained. The Council was called upon to insist that Viet Nam protect its lawyers instead of detaining them.
International Buddhist Relief Organization said child abuse was a violation of the basic rights of the child. Despite efforts by the international community, child abuse still posed a major challenge. It was deeply concerned by the plight of children in India. One in every three children in India was physically abused. Some traditional practices impacted negatively on children and increased their vulnerability to abuse.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association said that violations of women’s rights continued in India. Women there were victims of discrimination and sexual violence, including rape. The authorities had failed to provide solutions and reparations to the victims. India had to combat violence against women in all its forms.
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists was concerned that some States had failed to abide by the decisions of the Working Group on arbitrary detention on individual cases. This was the case of Egypt, which refused to release Mr. Tarabin despite the call to do so by the Working Group. What was needed was an effective mechanism that would follow individual cases until they were solved and the person released.
Right of Reply
Belarus, speaking in a right of reply following a statement made by the United States about an individual being arbitrarily detained there, said that this particular individual had been offered due process and fair trial.
China, speaking in a right of reply, resolutely rejected the practice of some non-governmental organizations who, based on rumours and unverified information, launched ruthless attacks against Chinese policy on minorities. China had achieved great progress in promoting and ensuring the rights of minorities. China was a country of the rule of law and its citizens were equal before the law irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or origin.
Viet Nam, speaking in a right of reply, categorically rejected statements concerning the human rights situation in the country and said that the promotion and protection of human rights was a consistent policy of Viet Nam. Progress had been recognised in areas such as education, health, rule of law, democracy and others. There was still room for improvement and Viet Nam spared no efforts to promote the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of its citizens.
The Council has before it the updated report on the work of the Commission of Inquiry on the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/27/60) and a selection of testimonies from the Syrian conflict A/HRC/27/CRP.1
Introduction of Report by the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria
PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, presenting the report said that the war worsened every day and that he had run out of words to depict the gravity of the crimes committed inside Syria. The Commission continued to listen to and record the anguish of Syrian women, men and children whose voices shined a piercing light upon the brutal crimes being committed daily. The Commission was releasing redacted testimonies of those who had suffered egregious violations of international law. In the last two months, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had continued to brutally and publicly execute civilians, captured rebel fighters and Government soldiers. ISIS had been declared a terrorist group by Security Council Resolution 2170 in August 2014. ISIS had committed massacres, including the killing of civilians at the Al-Shaar gas fields in eastern Homs, execution of hundreds of captured Government soldiers in Ar-Raqqah, killed hundreds of people from the Al-Sheitat clan in Dayr Azerbaijan-Zawr and publicly executed two journalists, aid worker and scores of Syrians in public squares in the north and east of the country. Women had been banned from public life, education for girls was curtailed and early marriage was on the rise. ISIS had prioritised indoctrination of children who were deliberately exposed to violence and encouraged to attend executions, trained in the use of weaponry and used to participate in hostilities.
Anti-Government armed groups continued to commit crimes with no regard to international law and in the last two months had launched attacks on villages in Hama and Al-Suweida, killing men, women and children, while Jabhat Al-Nusra had also been labelled a terrorist group by Resolution 2170. ISIS and the anti-Government armed groups were not the only agents of death in Syria and the Syrian Government remained responsible for the majority of the civilian casualties, killing and maiming scores of civilians daily. Checkpoints were often the starting point of a horrific journey of disappearance, torture, sexual abuse and for many, death. They were used to enforce sieges and to trap civilians in areas under indiscriminate bombardment. For many years, the Government had overseen the system of widespread torture in its detention facilities and many detainees in Syrian prisons had died; those deaths occurred behind locked doors and were deliberately shrouded in official silence. They were hidden but they were real and they continued to occur with impunity. The Government was maintaining sieges of civilian-inhabitant areas of Al-Ghouta area of Rif Damascus and Yarmouk camp in Damascus city had been besieged for over 400 days.
The Commission had implored the parties and influential States to forge a peaceful settlement, asked the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, but had been faced with inaction which had allowed the warring parties to operate with impunity and nourished the violence that had consumed Syria; its most recent beneficiary was ISIS. In failing to search for peace, Syria had been moved further into a war that had spilled over into Lebanon and Iraq and was threatening the entire region and beyond. The Syrian conflict would not be resolved on the battlefield; it was now at a critical moment, with the rise of ISIS emphasising the need for the Government and the opposition to find common ground and commit to making compromises needed to reach a comprehensive political settlement. In closing, Mr. Pinheiro said that he no longer had faith that enumerating the thousands of dead and displaced would provoke the international community to act; he asked the States to read instead the stories of the victims, who only wanted to return to what was left of their lives, in peace, in their country.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that once again the report of the Commission was politicized and unprofessional because it persisted on an erroneous basis, working with unbelievable testimonies and interviews held outside Syria with persons hostile to Syria, turning a blind eye to the daily suffering of thousands of Syrians because of armed groups. All this had led to biased accusations against the Government of Syria of violating human rights. If one persisted in this selective approach, it would be difficult to arrive at credible conclusions. Ignoring the work of other terrorist groups was not an objective method. What about the silence over the States that were supporting terrorists in Syria? One should accept the fact that the fight against terrorism was the only way to bring about reconciliation. The World Food Programme had provided food assistance to more than 4.1 million Syrians thanks to the facilitation of the Syrian authorities. It was strange to note that the report turned a blind eye to the consequences of economic coercive measures on the situation of Syrians. Syria reaffirmed its rejection of reports and conclusions coming from the Commission of Inquiry.
Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria
Poland said the scale and cruelty of abuses committed in Syria was indeed appalling. A spiral of violence was being witnessed that affected regional stability and, potentially, international peace. The international community could not turn a blind eye to the mass atrocities committed by combatting parties in Syria. European Union said the situation in Syria was resulting in an ever increasing number of deaths, serious injuries and all kinds of inhuman and degrading treatment. How could the Council further support the mandate of the Commission, in particular in fighting impunity and ensuring accountability for all violations and abuses committed by parties to the conflict? Jordan reiterated the urgency of immediately putting an end to the violence and finding a political solution to the crisis that would end the suffering and bloodshed of the Syrian people. Jordan was shouldering great burdens as a result of the crisis, through the presence of 650,000 refugees on its territory.
Russian Federation said that the work of the international community together with Damascus had managed to accomplish improvements, including in terms of humanitarian access. The Russian Federation welcomed progress made to destroy chemical weapons. The real threat to Syria was these terrorist groups. There was a need to consolidate the international community’s efforts to combat terrorism and the initiative by France to hold on conference on how to address the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant was therefore welcomed. United States condemned the violations by Syrian forces and affiliated groups as well as atrocities committed by ISIL. The Syrian regime was responsible for numerous gross violations, including torture, executions, sexual violence and arbitrary detentions of activists and human rights defenders. Some 85,000 persons had reportedly been disappeared. The United States called for the release of activists abducted by the Syrian authorities and armed groups. Morocco was deeply concerned about human rights violations in Syria, including torture and ill-treatment in detention facilities. Morocco also condemned attacks on health personnel as well as the use of chemical weapons. Morocco called for free and unhindered humanitarian access to assist the victims. Morocco finally demanded that the international community work on identifying an end to the conflict with the involvement of all parties.
Tunisia condemned the growing number of victims and the gravity of violations and crimes and reiterated its deep concern about the expansion of the war zone and the increase in the flow of arms which contributed to the continuation of the war. Austria said that the work of the Commission of Inquiry on accountability represented one of the most important contributions of this Council to protect human rights. The findings of the report were deeply troubling, including the regime of terror by ISIL, public executions, the fate of persons belonging to religious and ethnic minorities and the spread of extremism. Austria asked the Commission about the possibilities to stop and revert this appalling trend. United Kingdom remained deeply concerned about torture in detention by Assad’s forces and the tens of thousands of persons subjected to unimaginable suffering. The United Kingdom was intensifying its efforts on accountability, funding the investigation of atrocities, looking to add individuals responsible for war crimes to the African Union sanctions list and working to build the support for the referral to the International Criminal Court. Algeria had constantly called for an end to bloodletting and called again on the warring parties to promote dialogue and engage in negotiations towards a political solution that would take into account the legitimate interests of all Syrians. Israel said the cruelty and inhumanity of ISIS had been incomparable and was shocked by findings of the report showing the Government forces using chemical agents and sometimes deliberately targeting civilian gatherings.
Italy said it was with deep frustration that it participated in another debate on the Syrian crisis. There was no point in reiterating the main findings of the Commission. They all knew what steps were necessary to put an end to this bloodshed. All those responsible for atrocities perpetrated would be held accountable. Egypt said that it had followed with growing concern the deterioration of the situation in Syria. It condemned using civilians as targets of violence and condemned other violations of human rights. All parties were called upon to listen to the calls of the Syrian people and to stop the ever-expanding violence of the conflict. United Arab Emirates said that despite several international resolutions designed to put an end to the violence, the Syrian regime was continuing with the massacres. The use of chlorine, a prohibited product, had occurred against civilians. The international community was called upon to ask for accountability for the authors of those crimes.
Turkey said that developments in Iraq underlined the need to develop a more holistic approach and a comprehensive strategy in confronting the pressing challenges in Syria. Unless the international community took resolute action, the region could be driven into a wider sectarian conflict. Brazil said the dramatic situation in Syria had profound consequences for the stability of the region which were by no means unpredictable when hostilities erupted in March 2011. There was an imperative need to cease all hostilities, to interrupt the provision of arms to all parties, and to provide timely and sufficient humanitarian assistance to the victims. Qatar strongly condemned the continuation of attacks against civilians and civilian targets. It also condemned the use of chlorine in contradiction of relevant resolutions, as well as barrel bombs. The authorities continued their policies of massacres, torture and abductions. The international community was called upon to act urgently.
Bahrain paid tribute to the work of the Commission and deplored that it was not allowed to enter the Syrian territory. Bahrain condemned the heinous and barbaric crimes committed in Syria in violation of international humanitarian law. The international community had to take action, and perpetrators of these crimes had to be held accountable. Bahrain was also concerned about the rise of extremist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Netherlands said that the events in Syria amounted to the most dramatic situation in recent history, and expressed concern about the continued rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The Netherlands urged both the regime and non-State armed groups to uphold their obligation to protect civilians and comply with humanitarian law, underlined that women and children were the most vulnerable victims of this conflict, and called for unhindered humanitarian access. China condemned all violence against civilians in Syria, including by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and other terrorist organizations. The resolution of the conflict had to be political and inclusive, and was in the hands of the Syrian people. It was worth noting that terrorism constituted a real threat to Syria and neighbourhood countries. China called on all parties to implement the Security Council resolutions on Syria, including providing humanitarian assistance with respect to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
France was concerned regarding impunity of the Syrian regime and other groups responsible for human rights and humanitarian law violations. France was deeply worried about the threat constituted by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. France was also concerned about the systematic use of torture in detention facilities by the Syrian authorities. France would support all efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in accordance with the Geneva discussions. Slovakia regretted that the Commission of Inquiry had not been allowed to access Syrian territory, and strongly condemned crimes against humanity and war crimes by Syrian authorities and armed groups. Slovakia insisted on the necessity to end impunity, and expressed concerns that persons belonging to minorities had become targets of extremists. Belgium was alarmed by the devastating toll on the war on children’s lives, and noted that the conflict in Syria had had dramatic impact on women and children. Belgium was concerned that THE Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant had established camps to recruit child soldiers, and remained concerned about the disregard for the special protection to be accorded to hospitals and medical workers.
Germany was deeply concerned about findings that the Syrian military had repeatedly used chlorine gas, which was a war crime. Germany also raised grave concerns about the recruitment of children as soldiers, mounting evidence of widespread systematic torture in Government detention facilities, continued indiscriminate shelling of civilians. including by the terrorism group ISIS, sexual violence in conflict and sieges on residential areas; the use of starvation as a method of conflict was a grave war violation. Portugal said the Commission of Inquiry continued to bring to the Council evidence of massacres of civilians, including women and children, which may amount to crimes against humanity. Those responsible must be held accountable by the International Criminal Court. It also expressed serious concern about the spill-over effects of the Syrian crisis into the region.
Venezuela said those who exercised violence in Syria had been trained by foreign powers intent on overthrowing the Government. It deplored the ongoing media manipulation of what was really happening in the country. It recognized the significant democratic reforms and will demonstrated by the Syrian Government which had received renewed legitimacy from the overwhelming majority of the people in recent free and transparent elections. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the United States and western countries were responsible for systematic and severe human rights violations in the occupied Golan Heights and the bloody crisis in Syria, due to the terrorist attacks by anti-Government forces. Any unjustifiable interference, including the use of armed force, would not be tolerated under any circumstances as it infringed upon the sovereignty of Syria.
New Zealand registered its deep concern at the continuing widespread violence in Syria, the multiple and shifting nature of the conflict and the increased incidents of brutality and human rights. July was Syria’s bloodiest month yet, with 6,000 deaths. New Zealand contributed to the humanitarian effort, but was deeply aware that a much deeper political settlement was required. Ecuador said hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians were affected by the conflict in Syria. It welcomed the destruction of the Syrian Government’s chemical weapons stock. The West and its allies had not taken into account the offer of the Syrian Government to act jointly against the terrorist group ISIS and its associates. The Commission had deliberately ignored the electoral process in Syria.
PAULO PIHNEIRO, Chair of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, responding to some questions, said that the Commission and the team were at the disposal of the Syrian delegation for a presentation on the Commission’s methodology, and its way of collecting information. It objectively applied international law to all parties and did not have any preference for the Government or non-State armed groups. Yes, it had analysis in the report about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and also Al Nusra. Violations by ISIS had been documented and the Commission would continue to do so. There was concern about the fate of those detained during the ceasefire in Homs but it was emphasized that there was no specific information about those persons. The Commission also asked States to share information regarding nationals that travelled to Syria to join ISIS or other armed groups. Only a political solution could stem the continued rise in extremism. States were urged to cease sending weapons and investigate funders of these groups. It was hoped that there would be an end to the current particular deadlock despite the unpredictable nature of current developments. The international community and influential actors were asked to help with the resumption of the political process and to urge the Council to help with regards to access to the territory.
Australia said that the parties to this conflict had flagrantly abused the human rights of Syrians for years, creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. The latest report documented a whole new level of brutality perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It underlined the necessity that the situation in Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court. Bulgaria urged parties to the conflict and in particular the regime in Damascus to implement fully United Nations Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2165 on the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Syria. Bulgaria was worried about the spill over effect of the Syrian crisis over the region. There would be no lasting peace in Syria without justice. Japan found it unfortunate that the Government of Syria continued to be uncooperative with the Commission and urged it do so, including by granting access to the country. Japan was deeply concerned about the grave human rights violations and abuses as well as violations of relevant international law being committed by all parties to the conflict.
Cuba reiterated its vocation to peace and respect of principles inscribed in the United Nations Charter, international law and particularly international human rights law. Cuba firmly condemned the loss of thousands of lives during the conflict. It did not agree that deaths in this conflict be attributed, in a manipulated way, to only one party. Republic of Korea said that the indiscriminate attacks against civilians, widespread torture, ill-treatment and sexual violence in detention centres as well as enforced disappearances and recruiting and use of children in hostilities were being rampantly perpetrated. Those who committed these crimes should be held accountable. Thailand was appalled by the violation of children’s rights and the rights of other vulnerable groups and by the indiscriminate attacks against civilians, journalists, humanitarian workers and medical staff. In particular, it condemned the brutal acts of violence against innocent civilians committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Kuwait called for the cessation of aggression against civilian populations in Syria, and to allow them to leave, and cautioned against the repercussions of the fighting which could affect the security of the whole region. Kuwait was attached to humanitarian diplomacy and had hosted two fundraising conferences to that end; it had paid all of its pledges. It thanked other contributors and called on other States to also support, especially with the onset of winter. Norway recalled that the Security Council resolutions on Syria underlined that the primary responsibility to protect the Syrian population lay with the Syrian authorities. The Syrian Government had manifestly failed to fulfil that responsibility to its own citizens, as seen by the continued targeting of health facilities, health workers, schools and other civilian infrastructure by the military, and the use of indiscriminate barrel bombs as well as cluster munitions.
Liechtenstein called on all parties to end all restrictions on humanitarian access and in particular for full implementation of Security Council resolution 2165. Regarding accountability, it regretted the vetoes cast in the Security Council last year against referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court in the face of overwhelming support for such a referral in the Council itself. Switzerland encouraged the Council to adopt a resolution on Syria which would end the continuing impunity for crimes committed by referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. Switzerland called on all parties to the conflict to protect civilian populations and allow rapid humanitarian access to those in need in combat zones. It asked the Commission how the international community could protect children in Syria.
Ireland said the reported atrocities - 200,000 deaths and three million refugees - were a chilling record of the barbaric inhumanity and destruction of Syria perpetrated since the outbreak of the conflict. Ireland welcomed the recent appointment of United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura and called on all States to support his work in seeking to renew negotiations based on the June 2012 Geneva communique which remained the only viable means to end the conflict in Syria. Canada said regime forces had committed numerous attacks against civilians and was particularly concerned by reports of chemical arms used by regime helicopters in April last year. Canada deplored the use of children in conflict and the use of sexual violence. What could be done to minimize the spread of the threat of violence from Syria to countries such as Iraq?
Czech Republic called upon the Syrian authorities to grant the Commission immediate and unrestricted access to the country. It strongly condemned the extensive and systematic attacks against civilians, women and children as well as against ethnic, religious and other vulnerable groups, including the Christian communities. Iceland called for the implementation of the report’s recommendations without delay, including referral to the International Criminal Court by the Security Council. No child should be deprived of its innocence, let alone in such a horrific and prolonged manner. The Commission was also urged to continue documenting cases of sexual and gender-based violence. Malaysia was deeply saddened that the situation continued to worsen, leaving the country in a fragile situation and threatening the stability of the region. Millions were displaced and deprived of their human rights. Acts of terrorism had further exacerbated the already dire situation. All methods and practices of terrorism were once again condemned by Malaysia.
Greece said that despite recent steps taken in the right direction, humanitarian access was still highly problematic. The issue should also be dealt with effectively and as a matter of priority in an effort to reduce the death toll, treat the injured and combat starvation. Greece expressed deep concern at the spread of extremism and the absence of protection of the rights of the civilian population. Romania deplored the immense suffering of the civilian population in Syria and regretted that extremism had risen to such appalling levels that barbaric crimes were witnessed in many parts of Syria, especially the territories occupied by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Terror and dramatic scenes that the world had thought would never be seen again had become a daily reality. Sudan expressed serious concern at the increasing violence and the suffering of the Syrian population in light of this violence. Sudan stated that violence was not a way to find a satisfying solution and the international community was urged to seriously continue efforts aimed at finding a peaceful solution and to re-establish peace and stability in Syria.
Estonia said continuing incidents of war crimes and crimes against humanity by both Government forces and non-State armed groups indicated that the culture of impunity was being fostered uninterrupted in Syria. That could not be tolerated, and Estonia supported the Commission’s recommendation to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Estonia said it was especially worried about the impact of the war on children. Sovereign Military Order of Malta condemned the ongoing human rights violations in Syria, and called for an end to the violence. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta said the human rights of Syrians, including the right to religious freedom and freedom from violence and torture, should be guaranteed. Chile condemned the conflict in Syria and emphasized the urgency to stem the conflict in all forms, including sexual violence against women, arbitrary arrests and other horrific acts, and attacks against schools and hospitals. In particular, it condemned the attacks against humanitarian workers which represented a serious breach of international humanitarian law.
Iraq said the report of the Commission showed blood was still flowing through Syria. Half of the civilian population were now either refugees or internally displaced persons. Iraq was a victim of the Syrian conflict, and with no signs of a military settlement, the country was on its knees. Iraq appealed to the international community to come to the aid of the Syrian people to ensure the deaths came to an end. Iran said it shared the Commission of Inquiry’s view that the only solution to the crisis was a political solution. Acts of terrorism by terrorist armed groups alongside extremism and sectarianism were not only aimed against the country but also targeted the entire region. Regarding the recent spread of so-called ISIS across the border, Iran said it supported Russia’s idea that a separate report be provided on crimes committed by ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria. Denmark expressed serious concern about the extent of abuses uncovered by the Commission regarding enforced disappearances and torture. Such acts continued to be committed throughout Syria to repress and silence people and foster a climate of fear and intimidation. Denmark was especially appalled by the rise in reports of torture inflicted by ISIL on civilian populations in areas under its control.
Botswana said that women and children continued to bear the brunt of the conflict as sexual violence continued to be used as an instrument of war and children across Syria could not continue education as schools had been converted into military installations, while many children had been recruited into armed forces. Saudi Arabia voiced deep concern at the deterioration of the situation in Syria following the conduct of the illegitimate Government which continued to kill its own citizens and commit crimes including the use of chemical weapons. Despite having access to the field denied, the Commission of Inquiry continued to provide independent and impartial reports on the situation in Syria, said Spain who expressed alarm over the growing number of victims in this country and asked the Commission about the most important recommendations it would give to the international community. The rights of the Syrians were not being protected in this war and its spreading into the region was of utmost concern, Maldives said and expressed regret that, despite the 200,000 killed and 3 million displaced, weapons of war continued to be supplied to both sides.
Cairo Institute to Human Rights Studies said that half of the population was affected by the conflict and stressed the important work of human rights defenders and peaceful activists who suffered torture, killings and detention. Press Emblem Campaign said that more than 60 media workers had been killed in Syria since the beginning of the civil war and underlined that all parties were responsible for arbitrary arrests, abduction, kidnapping, torture and extra-judicial killings, and called on the Commission to continue to investigate the fate of Mazen Darwish, Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, arrested in 2012.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said that acts perpetrated by all parties amounted to crimes against humanity and war crimes. The International Criminal Court was the most legitimate institution to ensure accountability for those crimes. Civilians were the powerless victims of the conflict. Among them, peaceful activists and human rights defenders continued to suffer tremendously, including from arbitrary detentions. United Nations Watch said Syria was the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today, and regretted that the United Nations stopped updating its lists of victims. Syria had stated repeatedly that the primary human rights issue in the world was the Palestinians. But the Syrian regime was responsible for the death of countless Palestinians. Sudwind was concerned about the high number of civilian casualties in Syria and the security situation for Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. The recognition of recent Syrian elections by some States such as Iran had worsened the situation in the country. Syriac Universal Alliance said that the Commission was biased and politicized, and applauded the Syrian army’s good reputation. It called on the Council to respect Syria’s sovereignty and respect the free and fair elections that took place there.
PAOLO PINHEIRO, Chairperson of the Independent and International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, answering questions from States and non-governmental organizations, said the priority of the international community was a political solution, which with the rising threat of so-called armed group ISIS was more urgent than ever. The parties in Syria must come to the negotiating table based on the Geneva communique. There was no other solution, he emphasized. Mr. Pinheiro urged States to push for accountability. Syrian women must play a bigger role in the political solution to the conflict; they suffered hugely and their voice and experience must be properly represented at the negotiating table. In response to a question about the protection of Syrian children, Mr. Pinheiro said the Commission had documented the military use of children by both the Government and non-state armed groups such as the so-called ISIS, which prioritized the indoctrination of children. The only exception was the opposition group IPG, which this summer had pledged not to use child soldiers and had demobilized children from its ranks.
Responding to other questions posed during the dialogue, Mr. Pinheiro said the Commission was ready to work closely with the High Commissioner’s mission to Iraq to shed light on the violations committed by so-called ISIS in Syria. All parties were violating international law, he confirmed; the Government committed war crimes, anti-Government armed groups committed war crimes, and so-called ISIS committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Answering a question on the best way to fight ISIS, Mr. Pinheiro replied that the Commission did not advise States on the best ways to fight and reiterated that all parties must respect the laws of war. He also said that today Syria was probably the most dangerous country in the world for journalists and human rights defenders, and the Commission’s next report would focus on attacks against them.
For use of the information media; not an official record