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Human Rights Council requests International Commission of Inquiry on Syria to urgently conduct inquiry into the recent events in Eastern Ghouta

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5 March 2018

Human Rights Council  
MORNING 

5 March 2018

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its urgent debate on the situation in Eastern Ghouta by adopting a resolution in which it requested the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, upon renewal of its mandate, to urgently conduct a comprehensive and independent inquiry into the recent events in Eastern Ghouta, and to provide an update followed by an interactive dialogue on the situation to the
Human Rights Council at its thirty-eighth session.

In the resolution, adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, 4 against and 14 abstentions, as orally revised, the Council welcomed the Security Council Resolution 2401 (2018) which had demanded that all parties to the conflict cease hostilities without delay for at least 30 consecutive days to allow safe, unimpeded, and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance and medical evacuations of the critically sick and wounded.  The Council also demanded that all parties, particularly the Syrian authorities allow safe, unimpeded and sustained access by the United Nations, their implementing partners, and humanitarian operators to all people in need, including immediate access for aid deliveries and medical evacuations to and from Eastern Ghouta, and protection of medical and other humanitarian personnel, facilities and transport.

The full text of the resolution is available on this link A/HRC/37/L.1.

The Council started the debate on Eastern Ghouta on Friday 2 March, and the summary of discussions is available here.  

The United Kingdom introduced some oral revisions to the text.  

Speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote were Venezuela, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, United States, Belgium, Pakistan, Egypt, Peru, Iraq, Tunisia, Australia and Cuba.

At 10:30 a.m., the Council will hold the first panel of its annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child, which will focus on children in humanitarian situations.

Action on Resolution on Eastern Ghouta

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.1) on the deteriorating situation of Human rights in Eastern Ghouta, in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, 4 against and 14 abstentions as orally revised, the Council, having held an urgent debate to discuss the deteriorating situation of human rights in Eastern Ghouta, in the Syrian Arab Republic, which is currently under siege by the Syrian authorities, welcomes Security Council Resolution 2401 (2018) which demands that all parties to the conflict cease hostilities without delay for at least 30 consecutive days to allow safe, unimpeded, and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance and medical evacuations of the critically sick and wounded.  The Council demands that all parties, particularly the Syrian authorities allow safe, unimpeded and sustained access by the United Nations, their implementing partners, and humanitarian operators to all people in need, including immediate access for aid deliveries and medical evacuations to and from Eastern Ghouta, and protection of medical and other humanitarian personnel, facilities and transport; and requests the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, upon renewal of its mandate, to urgently conduct a comprehensive and independent inquiry into the recent events in Eastern Ghouta, and to provide an update followed by an interactive dialogue on the situation to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-eighth session.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (29): Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States.

Against (4): Burundi, China, Cuba, Venezuela.

Abstentions (14): Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa.

United Kingdom, introducing a number of oral revisions to the draft resolution, said the revisions had been made during the weekend as a response to the amendments presented to more accurately reflect the situation, and accommodate all parties as well as the Secretary General’s approach to the protection of civilians in Syria.

Action on L.2

Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.2, called upon the Human Rights Council to support and vote in favour of the proposed amendment.

Brazil, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, sought clarification on the text of the orally amended version.

Germany, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the resolution was about the human rights situation in Eastern Ghouta where the vast majority of people were in dire need of protection.  There was going to be another resolution on Syria, which would address also the issue of terrorism.  The Human Rights Council must not be distracted from the matter at hand and that was why Germany would vote against the amendment.

Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote said that the inclusion of terrorist attacks in the proposed text would suggest that terrorism was the only reason for the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta.  Highlighting the role of indiscriminate attacks against civilians in the situation in Eastern Ghouta, Mexico said it would vote against the amendment.

United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the overwhelming majority of those suffering in Eastern Ghouta were civilians.  The draft resolution proposed at the Security Council was in line with the Security Council resolution 2401.  The primary aim of the draft resolution was to protect the people from the primary perpetrators in this conflict, which were the Syrian Government.  Hence there was no need for an amendment to the draft resolution.  The United Kingdom then requested a vote on the draft amendment and said it would vote against it.

The Council then rejected L.2 by a vote of 10 in favor, 19 against and 17 abstentions.

Action on L3

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, stated that amendment L3 which was put forward by Assad’s Russian backers sought to divert the Council’s attention from the issue at hand.  At least 20 daily bombing attacks had been occurring by Russian forces.  The draft resolution was a balanced text, condemning all violations of human rights, rendering the amendment completely necessary.  The United States urged all States to see the amendment for what it was, a diversion.
 
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, requested a vote on L3.  

The Council rejected L3 by a vote of 9 in favour, 19 against and 18 abstentions.

Action on L.4

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the amendment was intended to distract the Council from the horrific realities in Eastern Ghouta.  The temporary humanitarian corridor proposed by Russia had been criticized by the humanitarian community, including Jan Egeland, the humanitarian advisor to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, who said that humanitarian corridors were woefully insufficient to take in aid or evacuate civilians.  Reminding the Council of the numerous violations of the rights of civilians by Syria in previous ceasefire agreements, the United States said it would vote against the amendment and urged all other Member States to do the same.

United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, requested a vote on the amendment.

The Council rejected L.4 by a vote of 9 in favour, 20 against and 17 abstained.

Action on L.5

Belgium, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the attacks on the civilians in Eastern Ghouta must stop and the perpetrators must be held accountable.  This was the aim of the draft resolution and its drafters had aimed to make clear that the Commission of Inquiry would take forward this work.  These were the reasons why Belgium would vote against the amendment and called upon others to vote against it.  

United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, requested a vote on L.5.
The Council then rejected L.2 by a vote of 4 in favor, 23 against and 19 abstentions.

Action on L1 as Orally Revised

Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the draft resolution could be more balanced concerning the responsibilities of all parties.  Still, Mexico would vote in favour, but the gap remained that the draft resolution did not appeal to all States to stop the transfer of weapons to all parties to the conflict which would reduce hostilities and further deterioration of the situation.  Moral responsibility to prevent the sale of weapon was necessary.

Pakistan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, shared the concern on the ongoing mass human rights violations in Syria.  The Security Council adopted resolution 2401 as a step towards a collective action and the Council should allow for the resolution to take its due course.  The Human Rights Council’s resolution would only politicize the situation further.  Seeing how the draft resolution was politicized, Pakistan was forced to abstain from the resolution.  If this resolution could save one life Pakistan would vote yes, but when lives became political football it lost its purpose.

Egypt, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, expressed dissatisfaction with how the draft resolution process had been managed.  The same topic would be discussed under item 4 in few days, and the resolution on Syria could been issued under item 4.  Egypt entered the discussion on the draft resolution, but believed that all delegations had needed more time to consult with their capitals before the adoption.  A draft resolution which was more balanced and less politicized would have been more welcome.  This draft resolution was not objective and did not name all the perpetrators so Egypt would refrain from voting.

Peru, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, echoed all those in the room who had unanimously expressed serious concern about the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta.  The irrational use of force had resulted in irreparable loss and enormous damage.  This situation was a most serious attack on the most basic human rights, and humanitarian international law.  An urgent implementation without delay was needed of the Security Council resolution 2401.  Peru called upon the Government of Syria to allow humanitarian access to relieve the suffering.  The Human Rights Council could not remain impassive to the horror that was happening.  Therefore, Peru would support the draft resolution.  Peru also asked all parties to stop providing arms and weapons to all parties to the conflict, which spiraled the violence.  

Iraq, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, remained gravely concerned about the situation in Eastern Ghouta, which took into account the consequences of terrorism.  The price was being paid by the people in Syria and in the region as a whole.   The world could not ignore what was happening in Eastern Ghouta.   However, the method under which this draft resolution had been led was not the proper way to deal with the situation in Syria.  The non-observation of procedural rules had not allowed the delegations to consult their capitals.  Despite this, Iraq had submitted observations and would have wanted more of a response from the State sponsoring the draft resolution.  Iraq nevertheless said the situation in Eastern Ghouta had great implications for the region and this was why it supported the draft resolution.

Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would vote against draft resolution L.1 as orally revised.  A group of countries had submitted and supported a set of amendments with the aim of striking a balance to draft resolution L.1, in order to remove it from politization and double standards.  Unfortunately, the amendments had not been heeded.  Venezuela had continuously spoken against the double standards and politicization of the Human Rights Council which did not promote the rights of the victims of violations.  It condemned the destabilization policy in Syria.  Syria called upon the Council to genuinely help the achievement of an end to the conflict and lasting peace through dialogue among all communities, and the respect of the sovereignty of Syria.  For this reason, Venezuela would vote against the draft resolution and called upon all to do the same.

Tunisia, said in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta has reached unprecedented levels of seriousness and deterioration.  All parties in Syria were called upon to seek a political solution and stop targeting civilians as per international humanitarian law.  The international community must combat all forms of terrorism in Syria, and put an end to the bloodshed and the suffering of the brotherly Syrian people.  The oral revisions to the resolution should be interpreted as a continuation of the resolution 2401 adopted by the Security Council, and that was why Tunisia would vote in favour.

Australia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the situation in Eastern Ghouta was dire and it required action.  The Council must not remain silent and must clearly and collectively call for accountability.  The Human Rights Council must pass a resolution which complemented what the Security Council had done, and Australia would vote in favour.

Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, requested a vote on L.1 as orally revised and said it would vote against it.

China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, supported the proposal by Cuba.

The Council adopted resolution L.1 as orally revised by a vote of 29 in favour, 4 against and 14 abstentions.

France, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, welcomed the adoption of the draft resolution.  The violations by the Syrian regime were continuing in an appalling fashion.  France requested the backers of the Syrian regime to exercise maximum pressure on it so that it heeded its obligations.  Some of the crimes committed constituted war crimes and France would not tolerate impunity.

Russia, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said it had commented on the situation in Eastern Ghouta and the background information on Syria in general terms.  The media atmosphere was saturated with lies.  Part of this information came to the Human Rights Council and was replicated here.  As a result, the Council saw debates and votes which were entirely removed from the actual situation on the ground.  Russia informed the Council that according to data on the ground, an agreement had been reached, by which militants entrenched in Eastern Ghouta would allow civilians to cross over in order to reach humanitarian aid.  A convoy of hundreds of thousands of tons of aid supplies was waiting at the checkpoint.  At the same time, many States had rejected a call to militants to allow the civilian population to leave.  Clearly these States wished to assist this kind of trend which was hardly consistent with elementary norm ethics, and was hardly compliant with humanitarian principles.  Russia had seen the vote and had drawn its conclusions.  

Syria, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said once again some countries were adopting through the Human Rights Council resolutions that had nothing to do with human rights.  Unfortunately, today, the adoption of a resolution under the pretext of human rights had been achieved with subjective and politicized aims.  The amendments to this resolution dealt with the situation in real terms because they condemned terrorism and the indiscriminate shelling of neighbourhoods.  The pretext to reject Russian amendments was baseless and indicated that the arguments against the amendments had nothing to do with human rights.  They were selective and highly politicized arguments.  Last week Syria had approved the entrance of humanitarian convoys into Eastern Ghouta, including 46 trucks and a mobile clinic.  However, the present resolution would send a negative message to militants which may stop humanitarian access into Eastern Ghouta.
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For use of the information media; not an official record
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