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Human Rights Council holds Interactive dialogue with Chair of International Commission of Inquiry on Syria

Human Rights Council
MORNING

17 September 2012

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. 

Mr. Pinheiro, introducing the Commission’s report, said that the gross violations of human rights in Syria had grown in number, pace and scale.  Indiscriminate attacks on civilians in the form of air strikes and artillery shelling levelled against residential neighbourhoods were occurring daily.  There were grounds to believe that Government forces and the Shabbiha committed war crimes, gross violations of human rights and crimes against humanity; similarly, that anti-Government armed groups had perpetrated war crimes, including murder, extrajudicial executions and torture.  International criminal law held perpetrators responsible for such violations individually including superiors and subordinates and whether military or civilian; and the Commission recommended that the Council forward its report to the Security Council. 

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing the report of the Secretary-General on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, said that the report focused on the status of the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 19/22 and outlined relevant developments until 20 July 2012.  It noted the further deterioration of the conditions in the country, with a rise in attacks on population centres by the Government forces, who were using heavy weapons and mechanised infantry as part of a campaign to clear anti-Government armed groups.  Government forces continued to commit numerous human rights violations, and victims again included women and children, and there were increasing reports of anti-Government forces carrying out abductions, torture and ill-treatment of captured members of Government forces. 

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, regretted that the report of the Commission was neither accurate nor objective, and that it neglected the fact that sanctions constituted a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and the principles of international law.  Syria had cooperated with all initiatives to settle the crisis but the armed groups that continued to refuse any genuine effort and to participate to the Geneva agreement had already hijacked the agreement before even departing from Geneva.  The aim of the terrorist groups was neither reform nor democracy, but the fragmentation of the Middle East into insecure Islamic Emirates.  Syria called on those supporting the bloodshed to stop supporting terrorism. 

During the interactive dialogue speakers condemned the escalation of violence and human rights violations in Syria and reiterated the finding by the Commission that there was credible evidence suggesting that both Government and anti-Government forces had committed violations.  Speakers reiterated the individual responsibility for crimes committed and called for accountability for perpetrators, reiterating the call to the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  Others indicated the negative impact of sanctions against the Syrian people and the dire humanitarian situation.  Political dialogue and an inclusive political transition were the only way to overcome conflict and violence.  Speakers called on the Council to further extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and reiterated their support for the work of the Joint Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

Taking the floor in the interactive dialogue were: Turkey in a joint statement, European Union, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Chile, Jordan, Portugal, Spain, Denmark on behalf of the Nordic countries, Kuwait, Cuba, Maldives, Qatar, Switzerland, United States of America, Honduras, Ireland, Australia, Paraguay, China, Lithuania, Germany, Czech Republic, Russian Federation, Thailand, Holy See, France, Indonesia, Croatia, United Kingdom, Iran, Morocco, Uruguay, Malaysia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, United Arab Emirates, Slovakia, Poland, Brazil, Tunisia, Romania, Costa Rica, Peru, Belgium, Venezuela, Ecuador, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Botswana, Republic of Korea, Canada, Libya and Egypt.

Also speaking were the non-governmental organizations Amnesty International, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Union of Arab Jurists, Press Emblem Campaign and North-South XXI. 

The Council today is holding a full day of meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. In its afternoon release, it will hold a general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/21/32). 

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/21/50).

Presentation by the Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

PAULO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, said that the gross violations of human rights had grown in number, pace and scale.  Indiscriminate attacks on civilians in the form of air strikes and artillery shelling leveled against residential neighbourhoods were occurring daily in some areas of Aleppo, Damascus, Deria, Latakia, Idlib and Homs governorates.  The Commission of Inquiry found reasonable grounds to believe that during the reporting period Government forces and the Shabbiha had committed war crimes, gross violations of human rights and crimes against humanity.  The Syrian Government refused the Commission access to the country, which continued to hamper investigations.   Turning to violations by anti-Government armed groups, there were reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes, including murder, extrajudicial execution and torture, were perpetrated by these groups.  Children under 18 years were fighting and performing auxiliary roles, such as assisting medical evacuations or as couriers, for anti-Government armed groups.  The Commission noted with concern that the anti-Government armed groups were failing to adequately distinguish their fighters from the civilian population, through for example using uniforms or insignia.   The Commission confirmed the increasing presence of foreign elements, including Jihadist militants, in Syria.

The Commission condemned the large number of explosions throughout Syria resulting in scores of civilian casualties.  Sectarian tensions had increased dramatically.  The Commission maintained that sanctions resulted in a denial of the most basic human rights of the Syrian people.  According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the number of people in need of humanitarian aid had reached 2.5 million.  More than 1.2 million people were internally displaced, of which half were children.  Nearly a quarter of a million Syrian refugees lived in neighbouring countries.  The Human Rights Council had to adopt a clear stance vis-à-vis the legitimate demands of the victims for accountability.  The Commission warned those perpetrating the crimes documented in its reports that international criminal law held responsible both superiors and subordinates, whether military or civilian.  It recommended that its report be forwarded to the Security Council. 

Mr. Pinheiro said a political settlement was imperative as there was no military solution to the crisis and it was critical that the international community deployed renewed efforts to support the mission of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, to stop the violence and steer the dialogue towards finding a durable solution to the crisis.  The conflict was spilling over into neighbouring countries, threatening their stability and the security of the region as a whole.   The most important goal should be to protect the human rights of all those comprising the mosaic of Syrian society.

Statement from Syria as the Concerned Country

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, regretted that the report of the Commission was neither accurate nor objective and did not include many facts.  Many international parties were working on worsening the crisis in Syria through instigating the media and training, funding and sending mercenaries into Syria.  The Commission of Inquiry should not only have described the crimes but shown those who were supporting the killers in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States, and highlighted the responsibility of international law, the respect for sovereignty, and responsibility for indirect human rights violations.  The report mistakenly indicated that the armed groups were acting unsystematically; nevertheless, extrajudicial executions were taking place ion the streets in front of women and children and were perpetuated in a systematic manner.  Many undocumented testimonies of no legal value had also been included in the report.  The Commission’s report also referred to the increasing funding and logistical support provided to opposition groups leading to the conclusions that they were fully accountable for the perpetration of crimes; and noted the deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situation given the imposition of sanctions.  The report neglected the fact that sanctions constituted a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter, the principles of human rights and the multilateral trade system. 

The Commission believed that a negotiated settlement, including a comprehensive dialogue among all parties, constituted the only solution to the crisis.  Nevertheless, Syria had cooperated with all initiatives to settle the crisis, including the Arab League and the United Nations mission in Syria, and the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan.  Armed groups that continued to refuse any genuine effort and to participate to the Geneva agreement had already hijacked the agreement before even departing from Geneva.  The continuation of the conflict, funding and arming opposition groups, including through jihadist fatwas, would not help those States and parties supporting them but they would eventually sow what these countries had planted.  These terrorist groups constituted a time bomb and after their terrorist mission in Syria was finished they would hit back in the countries that had supported them.  The aim of these terrorist groups was neither reform nor democracy, but the fragmentation of the Middle East into insecure Islamic Emirates.  Anyone who had perpetrated crimes against the Syrian people would be held accountable; a national commission continued to review complaints over the past 18 months and delivered sanctions in accordance with the law.  Syria called on those supporting the bloodshed to stop supporting terrorism.  Syria was the cradle of civilisation and would not be translated into fragmented entities by extremist terrorism.  

Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

Turkey, in a joint statement, said that the Council was compelled to speak about the dire situation in Syria.  The Syrian Government and the pro-government militias had shifted dramatically in their use of violence against the Syrian people.  The Government had increasingly engaged its military troops and heavy equipment, such as tanks and helicopters, and the situation in Syria had become a serious threat to international peace and stability.  The humanitarian situation alone should be sufficient to mobilize the international community.  For the end of violence and a Syrian-led political transition that met the aspirations of the Syrian people, the issue of accountability should figure more prominently on the agenda and the fight against impunity would require individual responsibility.

European Union recalled that those responsible for violations and abuses must be held accountable.  While the Syrian authorities had failed to pursue perpetrators, the international community should ensure that impunity did not prevail.  The European Union’s restrictive measures responded to the unacceptable repression of the Syrian people and aimed at depriving the Syrian regime from resources it was employing to maintain its violent crackdown.  Women should be involved at decision-making levels in conflict resolution and peace processes.  The European Union asked the Commission to further elaborate on measures to ensure accountability in view of the gravity of the violations, abuses and crimes committed.

Austria said that the Syrian regime must respect the legitimate desire of the Syrian people for dignity, security and justice.  President Assad had lost all his legitimacy by neglecting the public’s call for reform and by deploying public security forces against civilians.  Austria reiterated its call that the situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court as impunity could not be accepted.  Austria was deeply distressed by the rape and sexual assault of women and children by government forces as well as the use of children for military purposes by anti-government troops.

Saudi Arabia said that the events taking place were intolerable and unjustifiable.  Saudi Arabia supported all regional and international efforts to stop the violence and relieve the suffering of the Syrian people.  The situation was so tragic that it was necessary for all to cooperate and assist the Syrian people.  Effective and prompt action was required.  It was important to have a united international position to rescue what could still be rescued. 

Italy strongly condemned the massive human rights violations that continued unabated in Syria, and reiterated its call on all parties to immediately put an end to violence against civilians.  Italy expected all those responsible for crimes of war and crimes against humanity to be held accountable.  Perpetrators and first of all the present leadership, which bore the primary responsibility, should have no part to play in the future of Syria.

Chile said that condemnations were not enough.  The multilateral system should contribute to overcoming the situation.  The international community could not remain on the sidelines of the human rights abuses taking place in Syria.  The Council was duty bound to take action to protect the lives of the Syrian people.   Chile called upon the Special Procedures to highlight the fact that the Security Council should hand over all available information to the International Criminal Court.

Jordan said that the situation was worsening and the enormous human suffering constituted a source of alarm for Jordan and the international community.  Jordan had expressed concern about the crisis and promoted a political solution that would put an end to the suffering and fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people; Jordan supported the work of the Joint Special Envoy and would continue to provide the greatest possible assistance to those fleeing the situation of instability in Syria, despite financial constraints.  The continued deterioration of the situation would increase the difficulties to provide assistance to the Syrian people and to meet the education, health and life needs of refugees. 

Portugal said that the report of the Commission of Inquiry confirmed gross and systematic violations of human rights and utter disrespect for international law in Syria.  The international community and the Council could not tolerate such horrific human suffering and allow the impunity to prevail.  A political solution was urgently needed to end the violence and brutal repression perpetuated against the Syrian people.  The extension and strengthening of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry was essential.

Spain noted that the working of the Commission of Inquiry was hampered by the lack of access.  There were indications that war crimes or crimes against humanity were being committed by the Syrian regime.  Spain underlined the importance of a negotiated outcome to stop the violence and assure the accountability of those responsible for crimes.  Spain supported the extension and strengthening of the Commission of Inquiry and the increase in its operational resources. 

Denmark, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said they remained deeply concerned with the deteriorating situation in Syria and that the Syrian Government and Shabiha militias carried the main responsibility for the crimes committed.  The Nordic countries called on all parties to protect women and girls from sexual violence and assault.  They asked the Commission of Inquiry about the extent of their knowledge of the efforts inside Syria to hold perpetrators accountable; coordination with other initiatives in the field of human rights documentation; and about measures taken with concerned parties concerning the protection of women and girls from sexual violence.

Kuwait said that it strongly condemned the flagrant, widespread and systematic violations of human rights committed by the Syrian authorities against the Syrian people and called for an effective international position to solve the problem peacefully.   In the Council a clear and unambiguous message should be delivered that failure to achieve a settlement would have serious consequences for the security and stability of Syria, the countries of the region, and the entire world.

Cuba said that civil war in Syria or foreign intervention would cause greater destruction, many more deaths, and destabilise the region as a whole with grave consequences for the people of the Middle East.  More dialogue and a true will to negotiate were needed.  There had to be an end to the transfer of weapons and money to insurgent groups, and to the politically-motivated manipulation of the media.  It was up to the Syrian people and their authorities to determine the ways and means in order to carry out the popular will.

Maldives said that it was concerned about the scarcity of food, water, gas and medical supplies in many cities in Syria.  Impunity for the massive human rights violations and crimes against humanity being committed were unacceptable, and Maldives supported the call for the issue of Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.  Anyone guilty of gross and systematic human rights violations must not participate in the new Syria.

Qatar said that massacres and killings by the Syrian regime and Shabiha militia were taking place in Syria against the population, including in Al Houla.  Qatar regretted that the Commission of Inquiry was prevented from entering Syria and collecting evidence about the systematic crimes being committed.  Qatar called on the international community to provide all support to affected Syrians inside and outside of the country, and to take firm action to protect them from brutal attacks, in accordance with the international law and international humanitarian law.

Switzerland commended the comprehensive recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry and was ready to provide support to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for their implementation.  Switzerland noted the importance of documenting human rights violations to facilitate justice; all allegations of violations must be investigated, and all those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity should know they would be held accountable.  How could States best support the Commission, particularly in gathering and safeguarding evidence?

United States said that the Commission’s findings did not come as a surprise to those who observed the events in Syria; the regime and the Shabiha militias had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.  All States should work towards a peaceful transition in Syria and join in pressing for effective international measures to compel the Assad regime to implement such transition.  The United States asked about the whereabouts of staff of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression and whether there was any progress with the Syrian Government on the long-standing request to interview victims inside Syria?

Honduras said that it agreed with the Commission of Inquiry that there had to be an exhaustive investigation into the abuses of human rights.   Honduras echoed the appeal of the High Commissioner that the Security Council refer the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court.  Impunity was unacceptable, and Honduras supported the extension of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and an increase in its resources.  Honduras launched an urgent appeal to all parties to find a negotiated solution.

Ireland said it strongly supported the extension of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry.  It was owed to the Syrian people that full and total accountability be ensured.  Ireland also supported the referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  The time had come for the Human Rights Council to act by referring the case to the International Criminal Court.  The international community had an obligation to do everything possible to support refugees in neighbouring countries.

Australia said that it was deeply concerned that the fighting was also exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation.   The work of the Commission of Inquiry had been crucial and Australia strongly supported the extension of its mandate by the Council.  The international community had a responsibility to the Syrian people to help end the bloodshed and support a process of political transition, a process that had to have as its objective the protection of the welfare and rights of the Syrian people.

Paraguay reiterated the feelings of consternation expressed in light of the massive crimes and human rights violations committed in Syria, which indicated an increase in intensity and scope of armed violence.  Paraguay expressed concern about the situation of internally displaced people and reports concerning attacks on hospitals in violation of international humanitarian law.  Paraguay called on Syria to collaborate with the new Joint Special Envoy and called on the Council to continue to raise its voice.

China said that political dialogue, without preconditions, was the only way out of violence.  The international community should genuinely respect the right of the Syrian people to freely choose its political regime and to respect the outcome of such dialogue.  All parties should back diplomatic mediation and the work of the Joint Special Envoy to move forward with a political transition.  Sanctions or threats of sanctions would not be conducive to a peaceful solution and humanitarian issues should not be politicised.

Lithuania said that the human rights situation in Syria had deteriorated since the uprising began a year ago.  All parties must meet their responsibility to protect the population.  Human rights abuses and violations should be thoroughly investigated, and perpetrators should be brought to justice.  The case of Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court and Lithuania strongly supported the work carried by the Commission and joined the call to the Council to extend its mandate.

Germany said that the report painted a dire picture of the crimes committed against the Syrian population by the regime and the Shabiha militias.  Serious human rights violations had also been committed by organized anti-Government groups, even though they did not reach the scale and frequency of those committed by the Government forces.  All in Syria should respect international human rights and humanitarian law; impunity and lawlessness should not be permitted.  The Council should extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and increase its resources, including staffing.

Czech Republic expressed grave concern about the human rights violations committed in Syria by the Government forces, and the human rights abuses committed by anti-Government forces.  All human rights violations and abuses must be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted and the Security Council should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  The Czech Republic was aware of the worsening humanitarian situation and was grateful to neighbouring countries for supporting Syrian refugees. 

Russia regretted the conclusions drawn by experts concerning the Al Houla massacre and said that it might have been different if the Commission of Inquiry was allowed access.  The Commission should also speak about the violence, including war crimes, by anti-Government groups and this might make some States think about who they were supporting.  The data collected by the Commission concerning the involvement of jihadists was particularly alarming and Russia regretted the increase in terrorism in Syria, which was directly linked to the support received by anti-Government groups from outside.

Thailand called on all parties to immediately end the violence in all its forms.  There were grave concerns over the humanitarian crisis and its effects on civilians Thailand remained cautious about whether the sanctions imposed might worsen the already dire human rights and humanitarian situation as their affect might instead fall on the civilians.  Accountability must be upheld for all perpetrators of violations of international humanitarian law and Thailand asked the Commission of Inquiry how best to ensure this on all sides.

Holy See said the report documented all too well the results of months of violence and said that social trust and civil conviviality had been broken.  It was appropriate that the Council should adopt the perspective of the victims and respect for fundamental rights was the road that could lead to healing human relations and peace.  The Holy See had great attention and concern for the situation given the risk of destabilization in the entire region and called for solidarity with the people of Syria; the international community should put aside selfish interests.

France said the report was overwhelming negative for Damascus and established what was already feared, crimes which spared no-one, committed by the authorities. It also showed that other armed opposition groups had committed crimes, none of which were acceptable.  This situation was unsupportable by human conscience and the international community could not remain silent and passive.  Bashar El Assad had to go as he carried responsibility for the crimes committed and justice had to be ensured for the Syrian people.

Indonesia was deeply concerned that the violence in Syria continued unabated despite initiatives and international calls for the cessation of violence.  Syria was at a critical juncture.  The militarization of the situation had led to a catastrophic humanitarian toll and an alarming number of internally displaced persons and refugees.  The continuation of the conflict and its spill over effect were truly alarming.  Indonesia reiterated its strong call to end the violence, in order for an inclusive political process in line with Syrian aspirations to be promoted.

Croatia strongly condemned the escalation of the violence and the continued widespread systematic and gross violations, and condemned all acts of violence against civilians.  Croatia called upon parties to respect applicable law and to protect women and girls, in particular from gender based-violence and other forms of sexual abuse.  There should be no impunity for crimes committed in Syria.  Croatia endorsed the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court and would continue to contribute to the burden of humanitarian needs.

United Kingdom said that the Syrian Government continued to commit horrific crimes against their own people, including children.  The time had come for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court as there could be no future reconciliation without justice for victims.  While the abuses committed by the opposition had not matched the scale, frequency or gravity of those committed by the Government, human rights should be respected and violations could not be justified.

Iran concurred with the Commission of Inquiry that the situation in Syria had deteriorated and that the increased militarization of the country was a disaster for the population and could provoke tragic consequences for the entire region.  The appalling situation had further deteriorated after the imposition of unilateral coercive sanctions by the United States and the European Union against Syria, which first and foremost, targeted civilians.  The best solution was a negotiated settlement between the parties, leading to solutions that reflected the aspirations of all segments of the Syrian people.

Morocco said that it had been 18 months since the outbreak of violence in Syria and the latest report by the Commission of Inquiry was a tragic inventory of human rights violations in this country.  Children were particularly exposed and were even being used as human shields; women were particularly vulnerable to sexual violence.  Morocco deplored the humanitarian situation that affected the people, and reiterated its call to the international community to urgently mobilize to put an end to the violence and fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.

Uruguay expressed its concern at the alarming human rights situation in Syria and regretted the lack of cooperation by the Syrian Government with the Commission of Inquiry and the Human Rights Council, and its inability to fulfil in a peaceful manner, the legitimate political and social aspirations of its people.  It was important that all actions taken by stakeholders in this conflict be directed towards peace, while the role of the international community must be that of monitoring compliance with the principles and norms of international law.

Japan said it found it deplorable that many non-Syrians had fallen victim to the violence and renewed its appeal to the Syrian Government to take the necessary measures to fully respect humanitarian laws.  It was also vital that the Syrian authorities and opposition groups cooperated to secure unfettered access for humanitarian activities.  It was vital that a thorough investigation was conducted into all human rights violations identified on all sides.

Malaysia said the violations seen were some of the worst this century and called on countries which had imposed sanctions on Syria to lift those affecting food, medicines, fuel and other essential supplies as they had never worked in the past and the international community should not contribute to the worsening situation either in Syria or the neighboring countries.  The best solution was a negotiated settlement for political transition but it was important that the international community underscored the need to respect sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and guard against any forms of foreign intervention.

Slovenia strongly condemned the widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights law in the findings of the Commission as every State held primary responsibility to ensure accountability for violations of these and international law, and regretted that the Syrian authorities had failed in this.  It was the responsibility of the international community to stop the crimes reported and so Slovenia supported referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.  Full access for humanitarian relief personnel should also be granted immediately.

Bulgaria condemned the ongoing violence and the executions against civilians committed predominantly by the Syrian authorities.  The Commission had clearly outlined human rights by both parties and had a pivotal role in addressing the unabated reports of the appalling human rights situation.  Bulgaria called for the extension of the mandate and the provision of additional human resources for the investigation.  Atrocities could not go unpunished and a strong response to the widespread violations was imperative.

United Arab Emirates said the report left no scope for doubt concerning the events unfolding in Syria, especially concerning the use of force by the Syrian authorities against civilians, torture, enforced disappearances and other acts of violence, and which might amount to crimes against humanity.  This situation was worsening given the deterioration of the humanitarian situation.  The United Arab Emirates emphasised the need for political dialogue and called upon Syria to implement the recommendations of the Commission and international initiatives.

Slovakia regretted that the human rights crisis continued to escalate; the nature, intensity and duration of hostilities had met the legal threshold for a non-international armed conflict.  Slovakia demanded a thorough, credible, independent and prompt investigation and reiterated a call to the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  Humanitarian assistance should be granted access and violence by all parties must stop in order for a genuine and legitimate political transition.   

Poland said it was appalled that the situation in Syria continued to deteriorate and it was particularly concerned about the indiscriminate attacks on civilians and vulnerable groups.  The violence and the denial of the most basic rights by all sides of the conflict had to end now so that a transition to a new order, where all groups could find their place, could take place.  It also regretted the lack of positive response from the Syrians to allow access to the country to collect information on the ground.  Through which other channels could the international community gather evidence of violations and abuses in order to facilitate the process of holding the perpetrators accountable in the future?

Brazil said it had followed developments in Syria closely, saw with sadness that the situation continued, was shocked by recent massacres and reiterated its firm and unequivocal condemnation of all violence against civilians.  Brazil had recently given a donation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help those displaced and said agencies offering assistance should be praised.  Efforts should be humanitarian in nature and clearly dissociated from any military, diplomatic or political initiatives.  Further militarization of the conflict would only contribute to misery in the country.

Tunisia reaffirmed its support for the words of warning that the report sent to war criminals that they would be held responsible and roundly condemned all acts of murder and violence, particularly those affecting women and children.  Tunisia further supported the resolution of the Arab League that these were crimes against humanity.  It was distressed over the inaction in the humanitarian community.

Romania said that the number of victims was shocking and continued to rise and Romania condemned in the strongest terms the massacres committed by the Syrian regime and the human rights violations committed by all parties to this conflict.  Romania supported the mission of the new Joint Envoy to continue to seek a solution to the Syrian crisis, which required the undivided attention of all.  The mission of the Commission of Inquiry was essential in a country where impunity prevailed and it was a natural step to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Costa Rica expressed its deepest indignation in the face of continued human rights violations in Syria and highlighted international responsibility in giving voice to victims because they could not do it themselves.  Violence against civilians was never justified; dialogue must be used to resolve differences.  The Council must give a clear response and condemn the acts against civilians, and the Syrian Government must abide by its obligations under international human rights law and humanitarian law.

Peru said the inability to continue the United Nations mission left the Syrian population even more vulnerable.  Peru expressed its most energetic condemnation of the use of force against civilians.  Peru also supported all efforts that would find a solution and encouraged United Nations organizations to take rapid actions in favour of the civilian population.  Immediate actions by humanitarian groups such as the Red Cross should be allowed.

Belgium said the efforts of the Commission of Inquiry had significantly contributed to the fight against impunity, which was Belgium’s priority.  It also noted that that the human rights situation, along with the socio-economic and humanitarian situation had deteriorated.  Belgium was particularly appalled by reports of clinics being caught up in hostilities and said the deliberate shelling and targeting of field clinics was an outrageous violation of international humanitarian law.

Venezuela said terrorists sought the destabilization of Syria, and these should be called to account by the international community for what they had done. This violence went hand in hand with a huge media campaign which launched accusations against the Syrian authorities to justify regime change.  Under the guise of humanitarian action they sought to establish interfering mechanisms, in blatant violation of the right to peace.  Venezuela supported the capacity of the people of Syria to resolve their internal situation without external intervention.

Ecuador said that the increase in hostilities between the Government forces and anti-Government forces had left civilians totally unprotected.  All parties should put down their weapons and negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict.  Ecuador was concerned about the increase in sectarian violence in Syria and asked the Commission of Inquiry to take this into account in their reports.  People were asking for democracy and it had turned into a bloodbath.  Ecuador condemned those supporting armed groups from the outside and requested that they stop sending arms to the country.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea said that any attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of Syria were in fragrant violation of the purposes of the United Nations Charter and the relevant norms of international law and should not be justified.  The Syrian Government and people could resolve the domestic issue in their interest without any outside intervention.  Human rights issues and disputes must be resolved through genuine dialogue and constructive cooperation, free from unilateral coercive and confrontational condemnation based on political motives.

Botswana said that the Commission of Inquiry continued to document a clear and systematic pattern of human rights violations, which might amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  It was alarming to note that the Government forces and the Shabiha employed sexual violence as an instrument of war, and targeted and killed small children, women and unarmed civilians.  It was essential that the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry be renewed, so it could continue its outstanding work with a view to ensure that all perpetrators were held accountable. 

Republic of Korea said it supported the Commission’s conclusions and recommendations and called on all those involved to cease all forms of violence against innocent civilians.  The Republic of Korea supported the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court, urged the Human Rights Council to continue its strong vigilance, and remained strongly committed to international humanitarian efforts in addressing the crisis.

Canada strongly condemned the deplorable and senseless violence and called for access for lifesaving assistance to those in need.  Canada was deeply alarmed that war crimes continued to be committed, particularly systematic rape and violence against children, both on the ground and in detention.  Canada noted those specifically identified as responsible in the report and called for their prosecution. Canada called on the Security Council to adopt targeted sanctions and called on other countries to do the same.

Libya strongly condemned daily attacks, killings of demonstrators as well as enforced disappearances, all of which had taken place with total impunity in Syria.  Syria was seeing a genuine revolution of the people and the time had come for the Syrian Government to listen to this truth and stop flouting human rights.  Finally, the time had come for the international community to take a position and resolutions must be adopted in line with respect for the demands of the people.

Egypt said in light of more victims and the acceleration of refugees outside the Syrian territories, the violation of human rights could no longer be kept quiet - perpetrators must be brought to justice.  The situation required an immediate resolution of the crisis.  The non-application of the old six-point plan was a matter that would lead to continued acts of murder against civilians.  Egypt was leading an initiative of a quartet that would try to lead on solving the situation based on a common responsibility by warring parties.

Amnesty International said that Government forces had escalated indiscriminate attacks on villages and neighbourhoods that were supportive or controlled by the opposition.  States should use their influence to press all sides to the conflict to put an immediate end to human rights abuses and to abide by international humanitarian law.  Accountability must be at the heart of any solution to the conflict and the Human Rights Council should call on the International Criminal Court to be seized of the situation in Syria.
 
Verein Sudwind said that the Syrian regime continued to commit crimes against humanity and was capable of escaping punishment if it stayed in power.  Verein Sudwind called on the Human Rights Council to call on the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. 

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that the way in which the 18 month-conflict was being handled had resulted in the deterioration of the situation in Syria.  The Commission should carry out a special inquiry into massacres that had recently occurred in the city of Daraya.  It was disappointing that, in its report, the Commission had refrained from directly acknowledging the need for the International Criminal Court to be activated by the Security Council.

Union of Arab Jurists said that the tragic situation in Syria was the result of several factors, exploited by outside elements which had their own agendas, to the detriment of Syria.  The Union of Arab Jurists called upon the United Nations to take every step to put an end to this interference and cease the violence in Syria.  It condemned the excessive use of force wherever it came from and called for bringing those responsible to justice.

Press Emblem Campaign strongly condemned the use of technological means to locate and target the physical integrity of journalists, and any interference, pressure on or attempts to control the work of journalists, whether carried out by the Governmental authorities or the anti-governmental forces.  It also called for a section in the next report to be dedicated to the violence against media workers, and the measures taken by various parties to the conflict to protect them and ensure accountability.

North-South XXI said that it deeply regretted that the suffering of the people in Syria had been enhanced by the encouragement of violence and the insincere efforts towards achieving peace by some States in the international community.  North-South XXI urged the Commission of Inquiry and the Council to contribute to a resolution on the situation based on the rule of international law and the good faith required to refrain from foreign interference in a manner that inflamed violence rather than extinguished it.

Concluding Remarks by the Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

PAULO PINHEIRO, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry, said there were still some reports that had been received after the completion of today’s submission and would be dealt with.  The Commission had not received any specific answers about sanctions.  On concrete steps to ensure accountability, he said access to Syria was needed to gather as much information as possible, and noted there was no statute of limitation on these crimes.  Mr. Lakhdar Brahim’s team should have a strong investigative element.

Denmark had asked about sanctioning of gross human rights violations and Mr. Pinheiro noted that some reports had been received but information was limited.  The Commission relied on first hand information from its investigators but was in touch with other United Nations entities and bodies.  Interviews with victims were held, he added, but it was immensely difficult to get access to victims.  Once Syria was truly independent further work could be undertaken and a mechanism of transitional justice could be involved once access was established.  No interviews were taken with agents of the Government, again due to the lack of access.  Skype interviews with doctors and journalists on the ground had been held.

He reiterated the call that any country with information on specific incidents should send it to the Commission, if their mandate was extended.  The Commission’s role was to document, monitor and report, he said, and all support that could be given to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would mean an increase of the level of support it had already given to the Commission.  This would mean more investigators and eventually a more sophisticated report than those previously submitted.

Presentation by the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights in Syria

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting the report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, said that the report focused on the status of the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 19/22 and outlined relevant developments until 20 July 2012.  It also included information on measures taken by relevant international actors, including the Security Council, the General Assembly, the former Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, and other relevant United Nations entities.  Ms. Pillay said that during the reporting period, her Office had received 57 notes verbales from the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic, and the present report included the summary of the ones addressed specifically to the Office and containing information relevant to the implement of the resolution 19/22. 

The High Commissioner noted the further deterioration of the conditions in the country, with a rise in attacks on population centres by the Government forces, who were using heavy weapons and mechanised infantry as part of a campaign to clear anti-Government armed groups.  Those attacks were accompanied by a rise in attacks by anti-Government armed forces, targeting Government security forces, as well as Government and civilian infrastructure.  Government forces continued to commit numerous human rights violations, and victims again included women and children, and there were increasing reports of anti-Government forces carrying out abductions, torture and ill-treatment of captured members of Government forces.  More people were being killed, day after day, and civilians were bearing the brunt of the 18 month conflict.  Ms. Pillay echoed the call of the Secretary-General on both parties to immediately stop the violence and genuinely cooperate with the newly appointed Joint Special Representative, Mr. Brahimi, to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. 
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For use of the information media; not an official record