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Human Rights Council opens Special Session on Human Rights in Syrian Arab Republic

Human Rights Council
MORNING 2 December 2011


The Human Rights Council this morning began a Special Session to examine the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic in light of the report of the Commission of Inquiry.

The session was convened after the Council received a request from the European Union, backed by 29 other Member States and signed by 45 Observer States. This is the third Special Session the Council has convened on the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic in the last eight months; the last such meeting was held on 22 and 23 August 2011 and resulted in a resolution requiring that an Independent International Commission of Inquiry be dispatched to Syria to investigate all allegations of violations of international human rights law committed by the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.

In opening remarks, Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the violent crackdown against peaceful protestors and civilians in the Syrian Arab Republic had continued unabated. Since March 2011, more than 4,000 people had reportedly been killed, tens of thousands had been arrested and more than 14,000 were reported to be in detention as a result of the crackdown. At least 12,400 had sought refuge in neighbouring countries and tens of thousands had been internally displaced. Ms. Pillay expressed concern over reports of increased armed attacks by the opposition forces, including the so-called Free Syrian Army, against the Syrian military and security forces. She said the Syrian authorities’ continued ruthless repression, if not stopped now, could drive the country into a full-fledged civil war. In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needed to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people.

The Council was also addressed in a videotaped message by Farida Shaheed, Independent Expert in the field of Cultural Rights and Chair of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, speaking on behalf of the Special Procedure mandate holders who were dismayed that in only three months, the number of deaths had doubled from 2,000 to some 4,000. Excessive force, including the alleged use of heavy artillery by the military, continued to be used against protesters and civilians, including a large number of children, particular in the city of Homs where horrific crimes had been reported. Tens of thousands of people had allegedly been arbitrarily arrested and detained in already overcrowded detention facilities, many reportedly subjected to torture and ill-treatment. There had been unacceptable targeting of human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers. The Special Procedures mandate holders strongly encouraged a referral by the Security Council of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Paulo Pinherio, Chairperson of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, said violations documented in the Commission’s report included excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence, violations of children rights and of economic and social rights. According to reliable sources, to date, 307 children were killed by State forces. November had been the deadliest month so far with 56 children killed. The unrest had directly affected the lives of three million Syrians. Despite the Syrian Government refusing access to the country and requests for meetings, the Commission had collected a solid body of evidence from victims, witnesses and military defectors. The Commission was aware of acts of violence committed by some opponents of the Government and by members of the ‘Syrian Free Army’, but said peaceful civilians had born the brunt of the violence.

Speaking as the concerned country, Syria said that the Special Session would only strengthen the crisis in Syria and did not respect the mandate of the Human Rights Council. The report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry was not objective, and made criticisms while ignoring information given to it by the Syrian Government, including the new legislation to bring about reform. The sponsors of the Special Session had not only ignored the reforms, but also acts of violence by armed gangsters in Syria. Not once had there been an appeal to peacefully resolve the crisis and put forward ideas which included sincere constructive political proposals. Syria called upon the sponsors of today’s session to stop their actions, as their objective was to close the door to any real dialogue between Syria and the Human Rights Council. The draft resolution, which contained many errors, would prolong the crisis and deliver an erroneous message from those who supported terrorism and violence.

In the general debate, many States said that the grave and widespread systematic human rights violations referred to by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry as being committed by the Syrian authorities and their armed and security forces constituted crimes against humanity. States demanded the conclusion of Syria’s own internal investigations in order to end impunity and bring perpetrators of violations to justice, and for Syria to allow access to the Commission of Inquiry. Some States said that alleged protection of human life and prevention of human rights violations should not be a pretext for foreign intervention, and that they valued the positive steps made by the Syrian Government establishing a reform programme which included parliamentary elections in 2012 and release of political prisoners. A State expressed concern that outside forces were interested in further destabilizing the situation and that armed terrorists groups were being supplied with weapons from abroad. Several States said the report should be referred to the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Security Council.

Speaking during this morning’s debate were representatives of Poland on behalf of the European Union, Ecuador speaking on behalf of the Member States of ALBA, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, Russian Federation, Italy, Spain, Kuwait, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Mexico, United States, Norway, Hungary, Chile, Uruguay, Libya, Guatemala, Peru, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Romania, Maldives, Kyrgyzstan, Angola, Indonesia, Switzerland, Cuba, Thailand, Austria, India, China ,Nigeria ,Djibouti ,Belgium, the League of Arab States, France, Egypt, Turkey, Republic of Korea, Iran, Canada and Australia.

The Council will next meet this afternoon at 3 p.m. to continue the Special Session, hear more statements from States and representatives of non-governmental organizations, and to consider and vote on the proposed draft resolution before closing the Special Session.


Opening Statements

LAURA DUPUY LASSERRE, President of the Human Rights Council, opened the eighteenth Special Session of the Human Rights Council, with a minute of silence for Ms. Purificacion Quisumbing, Member of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, who had passed away yesterday in Manila.

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the violent crackdown against peaceful protestors and civilians in the Syrian Arab Republic had continued unabated since her last report to the Human Rights Council on 22 August 2011. Since March 2011, more than 4,000 people had reportedly been killed. Tens of thousands had been arrested. And more than 14,000 were reported to be in detention as a result of the crackdown. At least 12,400 had sought refuge in neighbouring countries and tens of thousands had been internally displaced. Reports of increased armed attacks by the opposition forces, including the so-called Free Syrian Army, against the Syrian military and security apparatus were also of concern. The report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry into violations of human rights in Syria since March 2011, released on Monday, had concluded that Syrian security and military forces had committed crimes against humanity against the civilian population. Those included acts of killings, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, imprisonment, or other forms of severe deprivation of liberty and enforced disappearances throughout the country since March of this year.

The Commission’s report had documented widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by Syrian authorities by acts including killing of children by beating or shooting during demonstrations, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment. It recorded at least 256 deaths of children – understood now to have increased to 307 deaths of children – and instances of schools being used as detention facilities, demonstrating the State’s disregard for children’s right to education and personal safety. The Commission collected evidence of sexual violence against civilians, especially sexual torture of male detainees and children and sexual assaults upon women in places of detention. The Commission was able to gather numerous, consistent and credible first-hand accounts of gross human rights violations and the authority’s complicity in those violations. It interviewed 223 victims and witnesses, including military and security forces who had defected and who had testified to the role of Syrian forces in the use of lethal violence against peaceful protests.

Ms. Pillay said the Syrian authorities’ continued ruthless repression, if not stopped now, could drive the country into a full-fledged civil war. In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needed to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people. The United Nations Secretary-General had urged the international community to act as one and take action in a collective and decisive manner to protect the Syrian people against the violations of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. All acts of murder, torture and other forms of violence must be immediately stopped. All prisoners of conscience and those arbitrarily detained must be released and acts of reprisal against human rights defenders must end. International and independent monitoring bodies, including the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) and the League of Arab States, must be allowed into the country, particularly to all places of detention. All humanitarian actors must be guaranteed immediate and unhindered access to the country. The Commission of Inquiry should equally be given access to enable it to carry out its mandated investigation with the view to updating its report for the March session of the Council.

In August the OHCHR fact-finding mission concluded that crimes against humanity may have been committed in Syria. Ms. Pillay recalled that at that time she had encouraged the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. She said that the Commission’s report reinforced that the need for international accountability had even greater urgency today.

FARIDA SHAHEED, Independent Expert in the Field of Cultural Rights and Chair of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, reading out a joint statement on behalf of the United Nations Special Procedure mandate holders, said that since August, despite the repeated and unanimous calls to denounce the gravity of the human rights abuses that had occurred in Syria, Special Procedure mandate holders had been dismayed that in only three months, the number of deaths had doubled, increasing from 2,000 to some 4,000. Human rights violations had also led to important population displacements both in terms of refugees who had had to seek protection in host countries, and internally displaced persons who remained extremely vulnerable inside the country. This was a particularly alarming affirmation that required urgent action. Excessive force, including the alleged use of heavy artillery by the military, continued to be used against protesters and civilians, including a large number of children, in various areas of the country, but in particular in the city of Homs where horrific crimes had been reported. This had resulted in alarming numbers of reported extrajudicial executions and injuries, in a context of persisting impunity. There was great concern that tens of thousands had allegedly been arbitrarily arrested and detained in already overcrowded detention facilities and many had reportedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. There was also grave concern for the reported cases of enforced disappearances, possibly in the thousands.

There was information that suggested the unacceptable targeting of human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers including women carrying out their legitimate activities whose rights to freedom of assembly and of expression continued to be denied. Many persons had been tried in violation of fair trail safeguards and their families had been harassed. Reports indicated that limited access to food, water, medical and other supplies were aggravated by areas being blockaded and attacks on medical staff. Some reports had suggested that in certain areas access to essential goods had been deliberately blocked to punish those protesting and de facto all those living in these areas. Such tactics were in clear violation of human rights standards. The Syrian authorities should allow unrestricted access to the independent experts of the Commission of Inquiry and independent human rights monitors to the country. Those responsible should be held accountable and the Special Procedures mandate holders has strongly encouraged a referral by the Security Council of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. The violence and repression should end immediately and political detainees should be released in accordance with the agreed Plan of Action by the League of Arab States. An independent, thorough and prompt investigation into the alleged violations must be carried out and the perpetrators of gross human rights violations should be held accountable.

PAULO PINHERIO, Chairperson of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, said the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic mandated by the Human Rights Council had documented widespread and systematic violations of human rights committed by the Syrian military, security forces and pro-government militias since the beginning of the protests in March 2011. These violations included excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence, violations of children rights and of economic and social rights. The Commission interviewed 223 victims, witnesses and defectors from the military and security forces. Other interviews were conducted through Skype from Syria in addition to reviewing video and photographic material. The Commission had collected a solid body of evidence, despite the fact that it was not granted access to Syria. The Commission had sought to engage the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic in dialogue and had repeatedly called for meetings and for access to the country. Regrettably, none of these requests were considered favourably.
The unrest had directly affected the lives of as many as three million Syrians. Many had been forced to seek refuge with families and friends. Thousands had fled the country. Violent strife continued unabated. The Government had claimed that it had a responsibility to counter armed gangs, terrorists and foreign agents who were manipulating public discontent. It further claimed that it had no policy to be harsh on civilians. The Commission was aware of acts of violence committed by some opponents of the Government and by members of the ‘Syrian Free Army’. Peaceful civilians had born the brunt of the violence. Virtually all victims and witnesses had stated that one or more of their family members, neighbours or friends were killed, wounded, arrested or tortured since the inception of the protests. Defectors recalled orders to open fire against peaceful protestors. Soldiers who refused to obey such orders were dealt with harshly and even killed. Several testimonies reported the practice of sexual violence and the rape of male detainees. Places of sanctuary, such as hospitals, were used as detention and torture facilities for wounded protestors. Ambulances had come under fire, and many of the injured and sick were prevented from receiving treatment in public hospitals in several locations, among them Dar’a and Homs. Evidence had indicated that individuals suspected by the Government of setting up and operating makeshift medical facilities or providing medical supplies and care were also arrested and some tortured. Children were not spared. According to reliable sources, to date, 307 children were killed by State forces. November had been the deadliest month so far with 56 children killed. Others were detained and tortured According to reliable sources, until 9 November, 307 children were killed by State forces. Others were detained and tortured. The Commission had heard about two boys who had died as a result of torture. The father of 14-year-old Thamir Al Sharee had shared with the Commission the post mortem report and the x-rays of the body of his son.

The Government of Syria must put an immediate end to the ongoing gross human rights violations, initiate independent and impartial investigations of these violations and bring perpetrators to justice. The Commission had strongly supported the call of the League of Arab States for a monitoring presence in Syria. Human rights monitors, including this Commission, should be given immediate and unfettered access to Syria. Equally essential was addressing the lack of accountability that shielded violations of human rights. The Commission was gravely concerned that crimes against humanity have occurred in Syria. The levels of excessive force used against civilians, the scale of the attacks, their repetitive nature and their coordination had led the Commission to the conclusion that these crimes had apparently been committed pursuant to State policy. The extreme suffering of the population inside and outside Syria must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Victims should expect nothing less from the United Nations and its Member States.

Statement by Syria as the Concerned Country

FAYSAL KHABBAZ HABOUI (Syria), speaking as the concerned country, said that this Special Session would only serve to strengthen the crisis in Syria and did not respect the mandate of the Human Rights Council, which was of impartiality and true dialogue without politicization or double standards. Syria strongly condemned the fact that the International Commission on Syria had not been objective in its report, and said that the Commission had fallen into the same trap as preceding commissions, and just made criticisms while ignoring all information given to it by the Syrian Government. The Commission had ignored the dozens of pieces of new legislation made by the Syrian Government in order to allow its population to live a dignified life, and had marginalized that information in annexes of its report, which made the report weaker, subjective and not credible.

Since the crisis began in Syria some countries had fostered sterile meetings of this kind and ignored the reforms undertaken by the Syrian Government. They had also ignored the acts of armed gangsters and gangs. The pre-meditated negligence of the Commission should not put oil on the flames that would deprive the Human Rights Council of its objectivity and its credibility. Nonetheless, those sponsors continued to call for an escalation of attacks while claiming there had been human rights violations. That was unjust to the Syrian population. It was clear to all that the situation today had reached such a point that those people had not been asked to enter into dialogue to solve the problem. Not once had there been an appeal to peacefully resolve this crisis, to engage in national dialogue, or put forward ideas which included sincere constructive political proposals. Strengthening the violence and calling for more violence in Syria would lead to more violence in the region. Military violence was a destructive trap that would affect everyone. Co-existence in Syria would be destroyed. Those recently released by the Syrian Government had recognized their mistakes and said they would never again wish to imperil peace in their country. The crisis could only be solved by domestic strategies. No solution could be imported by countries that simply wished to see Syria have more problems, to put more oil on the fire.

Syria called upon the organizers of today’s session to stop their actions. Their objective was to close the door to any real dialogue between Syria and the Human Rights Council. The draft resolution would prolong the crisis and deliver an erroneous message from those who supported terrorism and violence, rather than pursuing constructive and positive dialogue. The resolution had many errors and violations of the procedures of the Human Rights Council, and Syria had drawn attention to those mistakes. However their message was not heeded, which was most deplorable. Syria was convinced that a true solution would be found through overall social dialogue on a democratic basis involving all communities in Syria, a dialogue without armed violence or conflict, one which would not aim at anything other than coexistence and peace. The Syrian leadership would always work along those lines, quite independently of decisions taken here, and were convinced that their clear timetable for application of those reforms – February and March next year – meant that Syria would soon be a country of peace, with a transparent media, democratic elections and a true model for human rights peace and democracy in the world today.

General Debate

REMIGIUSZ A. HENCZEL (Poland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the information gathered by the Independent Commission of Inquiry was extremely alarming and provided evidence that widespread and systematic human rights violations were being committed by the Syrian authorities and their armed and security forces. It was a State’s primary responsibility to protect its population and when a State was manifestly failing to meet its responsibility to protect its population from international crimes, it was the international community that should step in by taking proactive action in a collective, timely and decisive manner. The international community must react and stand up for the rights of Syrians, whose human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to life, were being violated. The European Union had urged the Syrian Government to put an immediate end to the ongoing gross human rights violations and to initiate an independent, impartial investigation of these violations in conformity with international standards with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice. Despite the numerous attempts of regional organizations and especially the League of Arab States, as well as repeated calls from the international community, the Syrian authorities had not implemented reforms enabling peaceful transformation of the Syrian social and political life. The European Union had tabled a resolution proposing a follow-up to the work of the Commission of Inquiry with the establishment of a mandate of Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Syria, who would continue the work of the Commission once its mandate had come to an end.

LUIS GALLEGOS (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Member States of ALBA, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, said that they did not think that the alleged protection of human life should be a pretext for foreign intervention, while they urged the Government of Syria to stop all violence in the country. Last October representatives of their countries had visited Syria to see the situation on the ground. They had denounced the media manipulation and lies of some countries about Syria, and valued the positive steps made by the Syrian Government establishing a reform programme which included parliamentary elections in 2012 and release of political prisoners. The draft resolution lacked balance and could establish negative precedents for cooperation within the Human Rights Council. Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela rejected that text. Little had changed in more than one decade in human rights in the United Nations, and there were still resolutions against certain countries instead of constructive dialogue.

VALERY LOSHCHININ (Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation was deeply concerned at the tragic events occurring in Syria. The armed conformation between Government and anti-Government forces was violating human rights and Russia called on all sides to stop the violence and engage in a national dialogue to address the needs of the Syrian population. However, the Russian Federation was concerned that outside forces were interested in further destabilizing the situation and that armed terrorists groups were being supplied with weapons from abroad. The crisis must be resolved with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and the pretext of protecting human rights and humanitarian access could not be used. The global community was being given a one-sided presentation of events in Syria and the report of the Commission of Inquiry had not reflected the true aspects of the situation. The Human Rights Council should recognize the efforts made by the Government of Syria to resolve the crisis. If the aim of this session was to cover interference in internal affairs and ensure a forcible regime change in Syria then this would undermine the activities of the Human Rights Council and international humanitarian law.

LAURA MIRACHIAN (Italy) said Italy strongly condemned the systematic human rights violations taking place in Syria since March and the conclusions of the report were appalling. Syria must immediately end the massive violence against its civilians and impunity could not be tolerated any longer. Syria must provide immediate access the United Nations agencies and humanitarian organizations. Italy stood ready to provide humanitarian assistance to the population if necessary. The Human Rights Council had the duty to convey a strong and united message to the Syrian authorities, and Italy lent its full support to the initiative of the Arab League, and looked for greater cooperation with Arab countries to put an end to the violence in Syria.

AGUSTIN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain) said that the report of the Commission of Inquiry had highlighted the many aspects of human rights violations in Syria, some of which could be considered as crimes against humanity. Spain called on the Government of Syria to put an end to this violence and to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry by providing unhindered access to the entire territory of Syria. Spain supported the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Syria. Spain had given its full support to the plan of action proposed by the League of Arab States.

DHARAR ABDUL-RAZZAK RAZZOOQI (Kuwait) said that in the twenty-first century there had been unprecedented technological revolution which meant it was now impossible to obscure the truth of events that happened anywhere in the world. The report confirmed all of the information Kuwait had on the situation in Syria, and Kuwait thanked the untiring efforts of the Commission of Enquiry. Kuwait was, frankly, stunned and appalled by the situation in Syria, particularly by the orders of indiscriminate shoot-to-kill of protestors, many of whom had been shot in the head. Wounded people had been tortured in hospital. Even children had been tortured. Arbitrary detention had taken place. The deaths were in the thousands and the detentions even higher. The situation was getting worse, had maybe gone beyond sanctions, and maybe now needed intervention to protect civilians.

MANUEL B. DENGO (Costa Rica) said the international community could not be silent faced with the revelations of the Commission of Inquiry. Costa Rica had expressed its deep concern about the deteriorating situation of human rights in Syria and made a strong appeal to the Syrian authorities to stop the practices of violence against civilians, notably children. Those responsible for such acts should be held accountable and there should not be any impunity. Costa Rica supported the establishment of a Special Rapporteur and the leadership of the League of Arab States. The Syrian authorities should cooperate with all international mechanisms and all the parties involved must sit down and resolve their differences through dialogue. Costa Rica supported the draft resolution.

ABDELWAHAB ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) expressed serious concern about the violence in the brotherly country of Syria, and the rising numbers of martyrs. King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud had said that what was happening in Syria was unjustified and unacceptable, and that the Syrian leadership must carry out immediate reform and address what was happening. Brothers in Syria must immediately cease their use of force, put an end to all human rights violations and realise the aspirations of the Syrian people to reform and progress. The Kingdom had reaffirmed time and time again the importance of heeding the Arab League’s resolutions and initiatives to solve the crisis. The best result that could come out of the Special Session would be for the Human Rights Council to support both the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation initiatives to put an end to the bloodshed.

KHALID FAHAD AL-HAJRI (Qatar) said Qatar had expressed its deep concern on the violation of human rights documented by the independent Commission of Inquiry and committed by the Syrian Government against its citizens. In order to achieve freedom, dignity and justice in Syria and to put an end to the crisis, Qatar had called on the Syrian authorities to sign a protocol to set up a legal framework for the visit by a group from the League of Arab States and to start a national dialogue with all parities, however this call was rejected by the Government of Syria. Qatar said it was necessary to hold accountable all those responsible for crimes in the country and called again on the Government of Syria to put above all else the interests of the country and to respond to the demands and requests of the people in Syria.

JUAN JOSE GOMEZ CAMACHO (Mexico) said Mexico condemned once again in the most vigorous way the continuing situation in Syria. Mexico deplored the fact that the Commission of Inquiry was not able to carry out a visit on the ground, in spite of numerous requests. Mexico regretted that the various appeals from the international community, including from the Arab League, had not received a response and that violence against civilians had continued. The report strengthened evidence that the army and paramilitary forces of Syria had committed grave human rights violations, including summary executions, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and serious violations against minors, as well as sexual violence. However, the mandate of the Commission did not actually represent a judicial body, and the legal basis which underpinned the way it operated must be improved. The situation in Syria must be closely supervised by the Council, and the international community must support the leadership of the Arab League.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN DONAHOE (United States) said the Syrian people had an irrepressible hunger for a new political order. They were no longer willing to tolerate denial of their human rights or the trampling of their dignity or to remain quiet about the corruption and brutality of the Assad authorities. Peaceful protestors had suffered mass arrests and extrajudicial execution. Syrian Government security forces had responded to peaceful civil disobedience with intimidation and vandalism. The United States had called on the Syrian forces to immediately admit Arab League monitors, the Commission of Inquiry, independent human rights monitors, and humanitarian organizations with no restrictions on their activities. The Syrian Government’s abuses had been condemned by leaders of the Arab world and the United Nations. The United States would continue to work with regional partners and the broader international community to pressure Assad to end the violence against the Syrian people.

HARRIET BERG (Norway) said Norway strongly condemned the grave human rights violations in Syria, adding that crimes against humanity had been committed in Syria since March 2011. Norway called on the Syrian authorities to immediately put an end to all human rights violations. President Assad had not offered any meaningful response to the democratic demands of the protestors to end the spiralling violence there, and despite announcing several steps towards political and legal reform the unrelenting violence had continued, and reportedly intensified since 2 November. The establishment of a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Syria was an important step, and the mandate should be established now ease the transition between the Commission of Inquiry and a new, more long-term monitoring and protective mechanism. Norway supported urgent consideration of the report by the General Assembly, the Secretary-General and the Security Council, and urged legal accountability for the alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations in Syria through the International Criminal Court.

ANDRAS DEKANY (Hungary) said that Hungary welcomed the report by the Commission of Inquiry and that it was a source of grave concern that crimes against humanity may have been committed. Besides the excessive use of force and the killing of thousands of civilians since March this year, Hungary had found the extensive violations of children’s rights by the Syrian authorities and the alleged cases of sexual violence particularly appalling. The situation in Syria should be resolved peacefully, without further delay, and in this regard the Plan of Action by the League of Arab States had presented the best and currently only option. Hungary supported the efforts of the Arab League and called on the Government of Syria to clearly commit itself to the full and immediate implementation of the Action Plan. Hungary fully supported the draft resolution.

PEDRO OYARCE (Chile) said Chile urged action on the ground to prevent further human rights violations. Chile could not turn a blind eye to the crisis in Syria, a country with which it had very deep ties. The allegations were extremely serious and confirmed grave and systematic violations. The violations of the rights of children were especially serious. Chile was very troubled by the possible existence of a State policy to attack civilians. Accountability was essential and those crimes must be investigated and prosecuted. Chile urged the Syrian Government to accept without delay the plan of action urged by the Arab League. The demands of the people for greater democracy, expressed in peaceful demonstrations, must be met. Chile did not wish to interfere in internal Syrian matters, but it was important as a friendly country to reiterate an appeal for dialogue with the international community, to improve the situation and protect civilians.

MARIA LOURDES BONE (Uruguay) said that Uruguay took note of the report by the Commission of Inquiry and was concerned that there may have been crimes against humanity committed by the Government of Syria. All States should act in accordance with international law and respect for human rights. Uruguay would like the Syrian Government without delay to engage in a genuine and inclusive dialogue to resolve the crisis and would encourage the Government of Syria to cooperate with this Council and all international human rights mechanisms.

IBRAHIM ALDREDI (Libya) said they spoke as representatives of a country that went through terrible circumstances, over 42 years of dictatorial regime that violated human rights and flouted all human rights instruments, rights enshrined in the Koran for over 1,400 years. Libya saw before them the same scenes playing out again in another Arab country, Syria, a nation to which Libya was linked through ties of Islam, history and brotherhood. The regime was making the same mistakes against the unarmed, helpless, brotherly people of Syria, including torture, arrests, killings and other gross human rights violations. Even children were not spared. In that regard, Libya thanked the Commission of Inquiry for its work to give a true picture of the violations perpetrated by the regime. The Council must take a courageous stand to intervene to protect human rights and stop the violations.

CARLOS RAMIRO MARTINEZ (Guatemala) said Guatemala was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms at the national and international level. Persistent attacks against demonstrators and the repression by the Syrian authorities against their people called for the attention of the international community. The serious allegations identified in the report of the Commission of Inquiry, such as the excessive use of force, forced disappearances and the use of torture, were alarming and this type of action should be condemned and stopped immediately. The Syrian authorities should implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Council and adopt the Plan by the League of Arab States in order to bring an end to the violence.

LUZ BETTY CABALLERO DE CLULOW (Peru) said the violent situation experienced in Syria had been clearly portrayed by the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry and pointed to systematic violations of the rights of the Syrian people, which fully justified the holding of the Special Session. Peru vigorously condemned the use of force against peaceful demonstrations for reform, and reiterated an appeal to immediately and effectively end any and all acts of violence. The Human Rights Council could not remain passive in the face of the situation, and must adopt effective measures. Peru regretted that Syria had not cooperated with the Commission, and had not allowed them to visit the country, and that the reforms announced by Syria had not progressed at the pace expected. It was essential to prosecute perpetrators, make reparations for victims of violence and implement the reforms that the Syrian people had been peacefully demanding. Peru welcomed the efforts of the Arab League, and urged them to intensify their efforts.

KATERINA SEQUENSOVA (Czech Republic) said that the human rights violations that had occurred in Syria were shocking and noted the efforts of the international community, including the League of Arab States, which had repeatedly asked the Syrian Government to stop all acts of violence and resolve the crisis. The international community must stress accountability and fight impunity and therefore the Czech Republic supported the referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Children should no longer be the victims of violence and the Czech Republic called on the Government of Syria to step aside and allow for the immediate resolution of the crisis. The Czech Republic supported the draft resolution for a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Syria.

LUIS GALLEGOS (Ecuador) said Ecuador urged the Government of Syria and all players to use respectful dialogue to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, while prosecuting all perpetrators of human rights violations. Impunity could not be tolerated, whether in military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, or anywhere else. Respect for sovereignty and the non-intervention in domestic affairs of States were held highly by Ecuador. There was once again the risk of foreign armed intervention, with huge consequences. The Council’s duty was not to accuse countries, but to allow a framework for constructive dialogue. Ecuador would not support the draft resolution, but did want to see peace established in Syria. Ecuador trusted that reason would prevail.

RAZVAN ROTUNDU (Romania) said that regional organizations, in particular the League of Arab States, had made tremendous efforts in order to determine a change in attitude of the Government in Syria. Unfortunately, the authorities had continued to appear to ignore both the people’s requests and those of the international community. The gravity of the human rights violations committed by the Syria armed forces was appalling. Torture and sexual violence, excessive use of force, extrajudicial executions and arbitrary detention were not just human rights violations on paper but real facts, some of which amounted to crimes against humanity. Romania hoped that the draft resolution would be adopted.

IRUTHISHAM ADAM (Maldives) said Maldives was deeply disappointed that the Council was holding a third Special Session on Syria, which reflected the failure of Syria’s Government to heed calls for reform sweeping the Arab world. Syria had failed to engage and cooperate in a meaningful manner with the international community. Syria said facts had been misrepresented and the truth hidden, but they refused mechanisms which would have allowed an objective assessment of what was actually happening on the ground. The scale and systematic nature of human rights violations indicated that they were conducted pursuant to a policy of the State. Therefore crimes against humanity had been committed in Syria. Maldives repeated their call for President Bashar al-Assad and his Government to step aside in order to allow for a meaningful democratic transition and strongly supported the call made in the draft resolution for the report to be considered by the General Assembly and other United Nations bodies.

GULNARA ISKAKOVA (Kyrgyzstan) said that if the Syrian authorities had found ways to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry, then the report might have been able to better incorporate their point of view. The Human Rights Council could not ignore the scale of human rights violations that had occurred in Syria, especially towards children and a peaceful solution to stop this suffering should be found. Kyrgyzstan expressed solidarity with the Syrian people and urged all sides to stop the violence. When basic human rights were at stake, it was impossible to continue with the same approach and Kyrgyzstan urged the Syrian Government that if it could not end the bloodshed on its own to utilize the assistance of regional and international organizations.

JORGE CORREIA (Angola) said Angola was concerned over growing violence and tensions in Syria, and called on the authorities to end blatant human rights violations. Angola deeply regretted the Syrian Government’s refusal to enter into a frank, sincere and open dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry, or allow the Commission access into the country. Syria was urged to rapidly conclude the work of its own Commission, and cooperate with the international community. Angola hoped that the construction approach by the Commission would make it possible to maintain peace in Syria, and set up a climate auspicious for dialogue between conflicting parties. Angola noted with regret that the draft resolution was not balanced, since it strayed from the basic principles of the United Nations Charter: peaceful settlements of disputes. For that reason, Angola’s delegation had reservations.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said Indonesia was concerned about the situation in Syria and called on the Government of Syria to follow-up on the recommendations in the report of the Commission of Inquiry. Indonesia urged all parties to use restraint and put an end to the violence and said that it was the responsibility of the Government of Syria to protect the human rights of its citizens. The Syrian Government had taken some steps to reform the system in the country and Indonesia supported this and further acts to resolve violence. The Syrian Government should cooperate fully with the Human Rights Council and all human rights mechanisms but there was also a need among the international community to cooperate fully to promote greater dialogue to resolve the crisis.

DANTE MARTINELLI (Switzerland) said it was regrettable that numerous appeals and initiatives by the international community and even those by the Arab League had not been heeded by the Syrian authorities. The violence and arbitrary and summary executions must be stopped. All non-violent prisoners of conscience must be freed and all those responsible for human rights violations must be prosecuted and brought to justice. The security forces of the Syrian Government had allegedly committed crimes against humanity, but no credible investigation had been conducted by the Syrian authorities – therefore Switzerland believed that the situation must be referred to the International Criminal Court. Switzerland condemned all use of force, and called for an immediate stop to all armed violence and the use of serious and open dialogue without delay in order to find a solution to the crisis.

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said that the information provided on Syria by the Commission of Inquiry was inaccurate and had led to a greater incitement to violence. Cuba was concerned about the loss of life but rejected foreign intervention which would only lead to a greater loss of life. Cuba rejected any attempt to undermine the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and stressed that it was up to the Syrian people and the authorities together to determine the ways and means to implement the will of the people. The international community should extend assistance but there should be no foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Syria.

SEK WANNAMETHEE (Thailand) said that regrettably it seemed the door for genuine dialogue was closing. Thailand called upon Syria to halt the violence and engage in meaningful dialogue. Acts of serious human rights violations and violence, particularly against children, were strongly condemned. The Government must expedite, without delay, its reforms, as well as the Universal Period Review recommendations that Syria had accepted. Syria must also uphold the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol. Thailand called for the conclusion of Syria’s own internal investigations at the earliest opportunity, with a view to bringing perpetrators of violations to justice, and for Syria to allow access to the Commission of Inquiry. The Arab League and the Syrian Government were urged to effectively and collectively implement their proposals. The Commission had noted allegations by Syria of violence conducted by armed opposition groups. Thailand said the Commission must further elaborate its views on the violence conducted by opposition groups, which had allegedly led to further violations as well.

CHRISTIAN STROHAL (Austria) said that Austria was deeply concerned about the findings of the Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in Syria. The report had revealed a shocking array of human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial detentions, sexual violence and the violation of child rights. Austria had called for an immediate end to these human rights violations and said that the lack of cooperation by the Syrian Government with international organizations was shocking. The Syrian authorities should allow the Commission of Inquiry to conduct its investigations inside Syria and to cooperate with the League of Arab States. Austria supported the call for a referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court as there was evidence that crimes against humanity had occurred.

GOPINATHAN ACHAMKULANGARE (India) said prolonged instability and unrest in Syria clearly had ramifications for the region as a whole. India was concerned about the deaths of hundreds of civilians and security forces, and deplored all violence, irrespective of its perpetrators. States had the obligation to protect their citizens from armed groups and militants. While the right of people to protest peacefully should be respected, States must take appropriate action when heavily armed militant groups resorted to violence against State authority and infrastructure. During Special Sessions such as these, the Council must bear in mind that its credibility and legitimacy would be enhanced when it was seen to be dealing with similar situations in a similar fashion, and not sacrificing concern for human rights at the altar of political expediency and strategic opportunism. The violence perpetrated by armed groups and security forces was noted, but the report went beyond its mandate, especially with judgmental references to possible crimes against humanity and access to the International Criminal Court. There was a need to maintain the territorial integrity and unity of Syria.

HE YAFEI (China) said that China had taken note of the report of the Commission of Inquiry and was deeply concerned about the situation in Syria. Violence would only aggravate conflict and China called on all parties to end violence and restore social stability and order. The League of Arab Sates and the international community should proceed from the viewpoint of safeguarding the rights of the Syrian people, maintaining security in the Middle East and improving communications and cooperation with the authorities in Syria. Members States should refrain from resolving differences through the threat of the use of force. Assistance from the international community should be conducive to a reduction of tension and to the promotion a political dialogue in Syria. The protection of human rights could not be a pretext for undermining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of another country. China was opposed to the politicization of human rights issues and to referring human rights issues to the International Court of Justice.

UMUNNA H. ORJIAKO (Nigeria) noted with regret Syria’s lack of cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry. Nigeria commended the Commission for the steps it took to fulfil its mandate. Nigeria condemned in strong terms widespread arrests, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and torture taking place in Syria, and said they were pained by reports of torture of children, some of whom were tortured to death. Thousands of Syrians had been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries and many more were internally displaced. There had been unacceptable levels of loss of life, and the Syrian authorities were strongly urged to respect the rights to life and to freedom of assembly. Nigeria noted that Syria claimed over 1,000 security force members had been killed by armed gangs. While that was far less than the number of civilians who had been killed, nevertheless, those armed gangs must be investigated. Nigeria believed military action to suppress peaceful protestors put in doubt the credibility of the reforms. Nigeria urged Syria to cooperate with the Arab League, and the Commission, to immediately cease the use of force and violations of human rights, and to allow the people of Syria to democratically elect a Government of their choice.

MOHAMED DOULEH (Djibouti) said Djibouti was deeply concerned about the ongoing situation of violence in Syria and was alarmed at the serious human rights violations, notably summary executions, arbitrary detentions and forced disappearances. The Syrian Government should honor its commitment to undertake legal and political reforms and Djibouti appealed to all those involved to put an end to violence and find a solution to the crisis through negotiations. Djibouti welcomed the efforts of the League of Arab States to find a resolution to the crisis and urged the Government of Syria to cooperate with the proposals put forward by the League of Arab States.

FRANCOIS ROUX (Belgium) said Belgium greatly regretted the refusal of the Syrian authorities to engage in constructive dialogue with the international community, or to show more flexibility to the proposals made by the Arab League, an organization Syria was a founding member of. The report of the Commission confirmed that the situation was worsening, particularly with regard to revolting violations of the rights of children. In a recent report, the Committee against Torture noted with great concern allegations of torture in Syria, violations occurring with total impunity. Those violations could not remain unpunished, and for that reason Belgium recommended referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.

SAAD ALFARARGI (League of Arab States) said that if Syria signed the protocol proposed by the League of Arab States, it would allow the League to overcome the crisis, reconsider the League’s boycott decision and avoid foreign interference. The protocol contained a legal framework for carrying out the Arab League’s mission in Syria. The action plan was not an agreement between Syria and the League but a commitment by Syria to stop the violence, release prisoners and withdraw its military forces. The Council of the League of Arab States, through its boycott decision, had aimed at putting pressure on the Government of Syria without impacting the living conditions of the people.

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France) said that the Special Session was necessary, given the bloody repression conducted by President Assad, and to show the Syrian people they had not been abandoned by the international community. Men, women and children had been victims of violence and human rights violations. Women had been particularly victims of revolting abuse designed to terrorise their loved ones. The Syrian authority remained deaf to appeals to end the violence, including those from the Arab League. France welcomed the remarkable work carried out by the Commission, despite Syria’s obstruction. France would like to see follow-up to the report as soon as possible, which was the main thrust of the draft resolution, and solemnly called on all Member States of the Council to adopt the resolution unanimously.

HISHAM BADR (Egypt) said Egypt was concerned by the increase in the cycle of violence and urged the immediate protection of innocent civilians. There was a need to avoid further violence and Egypt called on the Government of Syria to implement the reforms it had already committed to and said that security solutions would not be able to resolve the situation but political reforms were required. Egypt, since 25 January, had continued to cooperate with brother nations in the Middle East. It now called upon the Syrian Government to cooperate with the League of Arab States and the Human Rights Council. Egypt would refuse any resolution that allowed for the division of Syria’s territorial integrity.

OGUZ DEMIRALP (Turkey) said for the past ten years Turkey had cooperated with the Syrian leadership for the well-being of the Syrian people. Unfortunately they had been deceived. The Syrian leadership had responded to the aspirations of the Syrian people by closing the country’s doors and meeting their legitimate demands for their rights with violence. The violence was getting worse. There might be forces that saw benefits through further bloodshed in Syria, but the likelihood of civil war and ethnic and religious divide must be avoided at all cost. The work of the Arab League must be followed, while there must be utmost care to ensure Syria’s economic and national infrastructure was not damaged. The bloody quickmire in Syria must come to an end, while the will of the people for democratic process must be heeded. President Assad should step down for the sake of his country, and the region. Nothing could justify murders, rape and torture committed by security forces. No Government perpetrating such odious human rights violations could be respected.

PARK SAN-KI (Republic of Korea) said the Republic of Korean was concerned about human rights violations in Syria which had been occurring since March 2011. The Republic of Korea joined the international community in calling on Libya to put an end to all human rights violations and ensure that all perpetrators were held accountable. The Government of the Republic of Korea supported the recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry to establish a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Syria.

SYED MOHAMMAD REZA SAJJADI (Iran) expressed Iran’s concern over the continuing serious situation in Syria which had led to deaths and injuries of civilians and of security personnel. Iran was also concerned about reports of armed terrorist organizations and urged any such people to lay down their arms. Iran recommended that they Syrian Government initiate an independent and impartial national investigation into allegations of human rights violations to bring all perpetrators to justice, fully implement all announced reforms and take steps to promote and protect human rights of all citizens via open dialogue addressing the legitimate aspirations of the population. Iran called on the Council and all international and regional organizations to fully respect the sovereignty of Syria, to prevent and combat arms trafficking into Syria by terrorist groups, to continue political negotiations with Syria through constructive dialogue, and to avoid a political and selective approach in dealing with situations. Iran noted that as the mandate of the Commission was not yet accomplished there was no urgent need for establishment of any new monitoring mechanisms.

ELISSA GOLBERG (Canada) said Canada again deplored the violence unleashed by the Assad regime against the Syrian people who were seeking freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Acts of violence committed against women and children were widespread and systematic as evidenced in the report by the Commission of Inquiry. The international community should support the Syrian people who had called for change. Canada had welcomed the leadership of the League of Arab States to resolve the crisis in Syria and said that the international community could not continue to accept the refusal of the Assad regime to protect the human rights of its people.

PETER WOOLCOTT (Australia) said that the report of the Commission of Inquiry had detailed a substantial body of evidence of human rights violations by the military and security forces against innocent civilians in Syria. The international community should continue to face head on the situation in Syria and Australia urged the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Australia called on Assad to step aside and urged Syria to implement meaningful reform and to honour the commitments Syria had made to regional leaders to end the violence in the country.

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For use of the information media; not an official record