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Council adopts resolution on escalating grave human rights violations and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria

Human Rights Council
MORNING 1st March 2012

Strongly Condemns the Widespread Violations of Human Rights by the Syrian Authorities and
Calls for Urgent Addressing of Humanitarian Needs

The Human Rights Council today concluded its urgent debate on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria and adopted a resolution on the escalating grave human rights violations and deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country.
In the resolution, the Council strongly condemned the continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities, such as the use of force against civilians, arbitrary executions, the killing and persecution of protestors, human rights defenders and journalists, including the recent deaths of Syrian and foreign journalists, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, interference with access to medical treatment, torture, sexual violence and ill-treatment, including against children.

The Council reiterated the need to urgently address humanitarian needs, to facilitate the effective delivery of assistance and to ensure safe access to medical treatment. It called upon the Government of Syria to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against civilians, to cease all violence, to allow free and unimpeded access by the United Nations and humanitarian agencies to carry out a full assessment of needs in Homs and other areas, and to permit humanitarian agencies to deliver vital relief goods and services to all civilians affected by the violence. The Council stressed the importance of ensuring accountability and the need to end impunity and hold to account those responsible for human rights violations, including those violations that may amount to cries against humanity. It decided to remain seized of the matter and to take further action on the situation of human rights in Syria, including after the forthcoming interactive dialogue with the commission of inquiry.

Turkey introduced the draft resolution, saying it aimed at drawing the attention of the international community to the suffering of the Syrian people and called on the Syrian authorities to immediately cease all attacks against civilians and to permit humanitarian access.

In the debate, speakers said that a humanitarian tragedy was unfolding in Syria. Humanitarian access was critical for protecting the dignity, safety and rights of the population and speakers called on the Syrian authorities to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian organizations, delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection of the journalists. A number of speakers underscored the need for putting an end to impunity which was at the heart of brutality in Syria and to hold those responsible for human rights violations, atrocities and crimes accountable. The Council must show its solidity and strength in the face of daily deterioration in Syria, take steps to end impunity and urge the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Other speakers were concerned about the practice of politicization, selectivity and double standards in the field of human rights and said that the Council should avoid a political and selective approach. The situation should be resolved without intervention of foreign powers and with respect for the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Syria.

Speaking in the urgent debate were Iran, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Australia, Republic of Korea, Japan, Paraguay, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Gabon, Slovakia, Argentina and Luxembourg.
Also speaking in the urgent debate were Press Emblem Campaign, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Human Rights Watch, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, International Commission of Jurists, United Nations Watch, Union of Arab Jurists and North South XXI.
Speaking in general comments and comments before and after the vote were Turkey, the Russian Federation Cuba, China, Ecuador, Thailand, the Czech Republic on behalf of the European Union, Bangladesh and Burkina Faso.
The Council at 11 a.m. resumed its High-level Segment, which will conclude later in the day.
Resolution

In the resolution A/HRC/19/L.1/Rev.1 on the escalating grave human rights violations and deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 37 in favour, 3 against and 3 abstentions, the Council strongly condemns the continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities, such as the use of force against civilians, arbitrary executions, the killing and persecution of protestors, human rights defenders and journalists, including the recent deaths of Syrian and foreign journalists, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, interference with access to medical treatment, torture, sexual violence and ill-treatment, including against children. The Council deplores the brutal actions of the Syrian regime over the past 11 months. It reiterates the need to urgently address humanitarian needs, to facilitate the effective delivery of assistance and to ensure safe access to medical treatment. The Council calls upon the Government of Syria to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against civilians, to cease all violence, to allow free and unimpeded access by the United Nations and humanitarian agencies to carry out a full assessment of needs in Homs and other areas, and to permit humanitarian agencies to deliver vital relief goods and services to all civilians affected by the violence. The Council stresses the importance of ensuring accountability and the need to end impunity and hold to account those responsible for human rights violations, including those violations that may amount to cries against humanity. The Council decides to remain seized of the matter and to take further action on the situation of human rights in Syria, including after the forthcoming interactive dialogue with the commission of inquiry.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (37):Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, United States of America, and Uruguay.

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

Abstentions (3):Ecuador, India, and Philippines.

 

Debate

Iran said Iran perceived the urgent debate as an unnecessary duplication which could undermine United Nations machinery for providing humanitarian assistance. The Council should avoid a political and selective approach. Efforts to provide humanitarian assistance should actively seek the consent and cooperation of the Government. Iran welcomed the constitutional referendum held. Coercive sanctions and interferences would only lead to a deepening crisis. Iran urged all relevant United Nations bodies to not complicate the situation with threats of military intervention, sanctions or regime change.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the urgent debate was such that Syria had been singled out for purposes other than genuine human rights, while the continuing bloody wars and civilian killings in Afghanistan and the occupied Arab territories were ignored. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea reaffirmed its continued rejection of the practice of politicization, selectivity and double standards in the field of human rights. Human rights should not be misused as a tool for denouncing or overthrowing a legitimate government or a sovereign State.

Australia called on the Syrian Government and all parties to stop the violence immediately. Humanitarian access was critical for protecting the dignity, safety and rights of the Syrian population. Australia called on the authorities to permit the visit of Valerie Amos and welcomed the appointment of Kofi Annan as the Special Envoy. Australia strongly supported Arab League efforts and welcomed the meeting of the Friends of Syria in Tunis.

Republic of Korea said it deeply regretted that the Syrian Government had not fully cooperated with the efforts made by the Arab League and the Human Rights Council and condemned the systematic and widespread violations of human rights. The Syrian authorities should allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance. The Government welcomed United Nations support to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society and the Emergency Relief Coordinator’s plan to travel to Syria and engage with all parties.

Japan urged Syria to immediately halt all violence. The Syrian authorities should swiftly and fully implement the steps laid out in the Plan of Action by the Arab League. It was vital that the international community work together to ameliorate the situation in Syria. Japan had decided to provide $ 3 million in emergency aid for Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons and was considering further measures.

Paraguay said that the focus of the international community on human rights problems should be based on dialogue. Paraguay exhorted the Syrian Government to strengthen its policies to protect human rights within its territory. There should be an immediate cessation to human rights violations and Paraguay hoped that the situation in Syria would not continue to deteriorate.

United Kingdom said that the strongly-supported General Assembly resolution of 16 February and the inaugural meeting of the Friends of Syria group last week had shown that the vast majority of the international community was determined to take swift action in response to the worsening crisis in Syria. The United Kingdom would work through this Council to ensure that evidence of human rights violations was gathered and stored so that those responsible for atrocities could be held to account.

United Arab Emirates said that the killings in Syria continued and called for the full respect of the right of the Syrian people to expression, assembly and life. The decisions of the Arab League and the Group of Syria should be fully implemented, and access to humanitarian organizations urgently provided.

Gabon said that the Council must show its solidity and strength in the face of the daily deterioration in Syria. The failure of the Security Council to reach agreement on joint action seemed to have encouraged the Government of Syria to launch a strong attack on its own people. Gabon called on the Council to act immediately and in full respect for international humanitarian law.

Slovakia said Slovakia welcomed the resolution overwhelmingly adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 February and supported the efforts of the Arab League. The line taken by the Syrian authorities deserved the international community’s condemnation. The United Nations system should remain apprised of the situation, including consideration of referral of Syria to the International Criminal Court. Syria should ensure unhindered safe access for humanitarian aid workers, protection to the international media and due investigation of the recent deplorable killings.

Argentina deplored the situation in Syria. The painful events were saddening Argentina due to its links with Syria. Argentina condemned the attacks on the freedom and human dignity of Syrians. The situation should be resolved without intervention of foreign powers. The report of the commission of inquiry showed the seriousness of the situation. Argentina highlighted the necessity of urgent cooperation in order to ensure adequate protection of human rights. The Syrian authorities had to guarantee unrestricted access for humanitarian organizations.

Luxembourg said 7,000 people had died due to the repression of the population in Syria. Massive violations of human rights were being committed. A humanitarian tragedy was unfolding. Luxembourg would continue to support the Syrian people in finding a peaceful solution for guaranteeing democracy, human rights and dignity. Luxembourg had co-sponsored the resolution submitted to the Council. Luxembourg called on the Syrian authorities to cooperate with humanitarian organizations and put an end to the bombing of Homs.

Belarus said it was concerned about the victims in the continued armed conflict between Government and anti-Government forces in Syria and stressed that the situation could only be resolved on the basis of political and diplomatic means and with the full cooperation of the Syrian Government. Belarus welcomed the intermediary efforts of the Russian Federation and China and said that all decisions made by the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council should be balanced and must guarantee the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Syrian State.

Press Emblem Campaign said that five journalists had been killed in Syria since the beginning of 2012. Syrian authorities had attacked media installations in cases of multiple violations against freedom of the press in the country. The Human Rights Council should ask for an international commission of inquiry to investigate criminal acts committed against journalists.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said that indiscriminate bombing of residential homes had resulted in the death of hundreds of civilians and amounted to crimes against humanity. Local human rights defenders were targeted by Syrian authorities and reports of the use of torture and ill treatment in detention centers had emerged. The Security Council should refer the crimes committed in Syria to the International Court of Justice.

Human Rights Watch said that its investigation into the situation in Syria supported the conclusion of the commission of inquiry that the authorities in Syria had committed grave abuses of human rights which amounted to crimes against humanity. The ongoing level of abuse underscored the need for the Council to undertake urgent measures and make it clear that those responsible for human rights violations would be held accountable, including through encouraging the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that evidence existed of the responsibility of high-level individuals in the Syrian army and authorities for acts of brutality. The sealed envelope containing their names was in the possession of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; that envelope could not remain sealed. The Cairo Institute for Human rights Studies urged the Council refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

International Commission of Jurists said that the Council must take steps to end impunity in Syria and refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

United Nations Watch asked: did Syria believe the United Nations would remain silent as it committed mass murder? Perhaps this was because for so long the Council had allowed regimes like Libya to be part of it. Today, it was time for the Council to send a clear message: a government that murdered its own citizens had to go.

Union of Arab Jurists said it had condemned from the very outset the use of force in Syria on all sides. There were indications that armed groups had infiltrated the protesters, committing terrorist acts. Violence had been committed by both sides. The approval of the referendum indicated the Syrian people wanted stability, security and reform and opposed foreign intervention. The Union of Arab Jurists appreciated the efforts of China and Russia.

North South XXI said the recent action by the Syrian Government to hold a referendum on its constitution and its agreement to cooperate with human rights observers of the League of Arab showed the Government’s willingness to work for a peaceful settlement. Several governments had called for more efforts to end the violence in Syria. The use of force was the most deadly solution imaginable. Even the largest opposition groups condemned foreign intervention. The solution depended on cooperation.

Action on the Resolution

Turkey, introducing draft resolution L.1/Rev.1, said that the Council had just concluded the urgent debate on the grave human rights violations occurring in Syria and had expressed concern for the deepening humanitarian crisis in the country. The resolution aimed at drawing the attention of the international community to the suffering of the Syrian people and called on the Syrian authorities to immediately cease all attacks against civilians and to permit humanitarian access. The Syrian authorities had chosen to intensify atrocities in Homs while the world expected them to receive the United Nations Envoy, Valerie Amos. The Human Rights Council would place itself on the side of the victims by passing this resolution which had more than 60 States as co-sponsors. Turkey hoped the resolution would be fully supported by all States.

Russian Federation, speaking in a general comment, said that this resolution was another example of one-sided political approaches and the text was not balanced as it blamed the Syrian Government for the violence. The resolution lacked constructive solutions to resolve the crisis. Russia had proposed constructive amendments to the text, however, the co-sponsors had ignored these suggestions and Russia therefore called for this resolution to be put to a vote and would vote against it.

Cuba, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Cuba supported a political solution to the crisis in Syria by maintaining the full sovereignty and independence of the Syrian State. Cuba noted that the Representative of Syria had left the room and asked how dialogue could be deployed to resolve the crisis when the concerned country was marginalized. Cuba was concerned about the concept to protect imperialist military intervention and would be voting against the draft resolution.

China, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said China shared the views of Cuba and the Russian Federation and supported their statements.

Ecuador, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, expressed its condemnation of the human rights violations perpetrated in Syria as well as for those who saw those actions favourably. Ecuador called on the authorities to respect human rights, particularly the right to life. The resolution proposed was not sufficiently balanced and did not achieve the impartiality and objectivity needed to secure the peace and security of the Syrian people. The resolution did not include all the players involved. Any action had to involve an active dialogue with the commission of inquiry. Passing the resolution would create an overlap in resolutions adopted by the Council and would undermine the Council’s impact. Ecuador would thus abstain.

Thailand, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Thailand was deeply concerned about the worsening human rights situation in Syria. It was disappointing to know that United Nations agencies had not received permission to enter the country. For these reasons, Thailand would vote in support of the resolution. Thailand was disappointed that the resolution did not make reference to the violations committed by opposition groups. Thailand urged groups in Syria and the Syrian authorities to end the violence immediately.

Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that the European Union was increasingly appalled at the mounting crisis in Syria and the dire humanitarian impact it had had on civilians. The Human Rights Council should continue to give this issue the upmost priority and the European Union was very disappointed that the Syrian authorities had not granted access to the United Nations Humanitarian Aid Chief Valerie Amos. The resolution expressed the concerns raised by Member States during the debate and the European Union was disappointed the Council had not spoken with a unified voice to condemn the situation in Syria.

Bangladesh, in an explanation on the vote after the vote, said Bangladesh had voted yes for the resolution as today’s action was necessary to address the humanitarian crisis facing the Syrian people. Bangladesh agreed on the emphasis of the resolution on ceasing all violence and attacks against civilians and to deliver vital relief goods. Bangladesh said that even though the present text was inadequate and should have had a more balanced approach because of the dire situation there was merit in voting for it as an articulation coming from the premier Human Rights body was vital.

Burkina Faso, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that the delegation of Burkina Faso had not been in the room during the vote but would like it noted that the State would have voted for the resolution.

Kyrgyzstan, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said the delegation of Kyrgyzstan had missed the vote but would like to state that had it been in the room, it would have voted for the resolution.

Angola, speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that Angola had not been in the room during the vote but would like to state that if it had been in the room, it would have abstained.

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For use of the information media; not an official record