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Statement of the President of the Human Rights Council at Council side event "Bearing Witness: Human Rights and accountability in Syria"

Geneva, 10 September 2012

Madame High Commissioner,
Distinguished panellists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me thank the organisers of this side event on human rights and accountability in Syria especially for bringing the voices of the victims of this persistent and worsening crisis.

As the main UN body responsible for the promotion and promotion of human rights, the Human Rights Council has been closely following the situation in Syria, particularly since the beginning of the peaceful uprising in 2011. Since then, the Council has continuously condemned all violations, including through the holding of an unprecedented number of special sessions (4) since April 2011, in order to address the situation in a timely manner; urging the authorities to stop the repression and facilitate a national political and social dialogue in a context of respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and calling on all parties to stop the violence.

After a Fact Finding Mission by the OHCHR, the Council decided last august 2011 to establish a Commission of Inquiry, mandated to investigate “all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic”. The CoI has presented regular reports to the Council, and its latest report, released on 15 August will be discussed at this session, on Monday 17 September. It has also been transmitted to the Secretary General of the United Nations, for transmission to relevant UN bodies, including the Security Council.

Although the Commission of Inquiry was not granted access to the country, apart from a protocolary mission by the Chair, it has managed to collect important information and it also reported that it had found reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in Syria by government forces, and war crimes by some anti- government armed groups.

Since the crisis evolved into an internal conflict, the Commission’s mandate is still relevant and more investigators on the ground should assist it. I would like to take this opportunity to call again on the need for Syrian authorities to cooperate with the Commission and grant unhindered access to the country, as it is also needed to deliver humanitarian assistance, especially to civilian populations affected.

All violations must come to an end and perpetrators should be held accountable. Accountability is an essential element for a democratic transition in Syria. In this regard, the Commission of Inquiry has prepared a confidential list of individuals and units believed to be responsible for such crimes, which is being submitted to the OHCHR.

The international community should be more united in its call to all parties in Syria to put an end to the violence and to the international crimes being committed. The Human Rights Council should remain seized of the situation as long as violations continue. It will also have to, within its mandate, take all necessary measures to accompany national efforts to build democracy and ensuring the rule of law, including finding adequate mechanisms for accountability for all violations committed since the beginning of the conflict (truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition being central in combatting impunity and consolidating a democratic society).

We must think in this post-conflict transition and we should not forget that these crises do not appear from one day to another. The Council, the UN system and the whole international community needs to be alerted by initials signs of deterioration of the human rights situation and of the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, in order to prevent violations. To do so, we should signal them and offer assistance, and expect, as well, the good will of national authorities to assume their responsibility to address any problem.

Now we need a 1st clear signal by the authorities that violence will cease and give reassurances of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. This should also be followed by the opposition and by armed groups under the UN auspices, in order to achieve peace in the country.

Thank you