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Human Rights Council opens Special Session on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Syria

MORNING
 

Le Conseil des droits de l’homme ouvre une session extraordinaire sur la situation des droits de l’homme à Alep
 
GENEVA (21 October 2016) - The Human Rights Council this morning opened its twenty-fifth Special Session on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Syria, and the recent situation in Aleppo. 
 
The request for the Special Session was supported by the following members of the Council: Albania, Belgium, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  The request was also supported by the following observer States: Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States of America.
 
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking in a video message, said that well over 300,000 Syrians had been killed, and countless others wounded and traumatised in the course of this civil war – now also a proxy conflict, fuelled by cynical regional and international interests.  Responsibility for halting the Syrian crisis rested primarily with the Security Council, but not exclusively, so the General Assembly might also have a role.  High Commissioner Zeid urged members of the Human Rights Council to cast aside political disagreements and focus exclusively on those whose suffering cried out for their help.  He said the situation should be urgently referred to the International Criminal Court.

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, stated that countless numbers of people, including children and pregnant women, had died from lack of medical care.  A number of non-State armed groups currently comprised the insurgency in Aleppo; some of those groups had killed civilians in western Aleppo with their indiscriminate barrage of mortars.  No one was safe from attack by the warring parties.  Mr. Pinheiro appealed again to the Government of Syria to allow it to conduct investigations in situ.  
 
Catalina Devandas Aguilar, speaking on behalf of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, stressed that the Coordination Committee condemned in the strongest terms the siege tactics used by the Syrian Government and other parties to the conflict and expressed deep concern about the restriction on the movement of civilians out of conflict areas.  The situation in Syria ought to be referred to the International Criminal Court and only by restraining the use of veto would the Security Council be able to do so. 
 
Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that the group of States behind the resolution were not concerned about the well-being of the Syrian people, but were instead supporting terrorist organizations in Syria.  Syria rejected the lies and manipulations by Britain and its allies in the Human Rights Council.  The Syrian Government was working on ridding some areas of armed groups, and safe passage had been provided for civilians and fighters to leave safely and with guarantees. 
 
In the ensuing debate, speakers expressed their grave concern about the humanitarian situation in Aleppo, and asked that humanitarian agencies be allowed safe access to the civilians in need.  A number of countries demanded that the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo by the Syrian Government and its allies, notably Russia, be halted.  Other speakers stressed the need for an even-handed approach to the problem and warned against the politicization of the conflict.  Some rejected that the Council was being used to promote the agendas of certain powers and condemned the violence carried out by all actors to the conflict.  Numerous calls were made to ensure that those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law be held accountable, and that the situation be referred to the International Criminal Court. 
 
The following Member States of the Council took the floor: Slovakia (on behalf of the European Union), Iceland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), United Kingdom, Qatar, Maldives, Germany, China, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, Venezuela, Switzerland, Russian Federation, Nigeria, Slovenia, Belgium, Latvia, Ecuador, Republic of Korea, Albania, Paraguay, Cuba, Portugal, Algeria,  and Morocco.  Speaking also were the following observers: Canada, Czech Republic, Australia, Thailand, New Zealand, Poland, Brazil, Luxembourg, Jordan, Malaysia, Israel, Greece, Kuwait, Holy See, United Nations Children’s Fund, Japan, Bahrain, United States of America, Liechtenstein, Costa Rica, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Italy, Belarus, Iraq, Rwanda, Egypt, Ukraine, Turkey, Estonia, Ireland, Pakistan, Sovereign Order of Malta, and Uruguay.
 
The Special Session will resume at 3 p.m. today, when the Council will continue to hear from observer States, as well as non-governmental organizations.  The Council will then take action on a draft resolution on preventing the further deterioration of the human rights situation in Syria.
 
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council observed a minute of silence in memory of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.
 
Opening Statement by the President of the Council
 
GEERT MUYLLE, President of the Human Rights Council, said before proceeding with their Special Session, he would like to observe a minute of silence in memory of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. 
 
He said the request for a Special Session of the Council “on the deteriorating situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, and the recent situation in Aleppo” was received by the Secretariat on 18 October 2015.  The request for this Special Session was supported by the following members of the Council: Albania, Belgium, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  The request was also supported by the following observer States: Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States of America.
 
Opening Video Message by the High Commissioner for Human Rights
 
ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking in a video message, said that once again the Council had been called to discuss the disgraceful human rights crisis in Syria.  The violations and abuses suffered by people across the country, including the siege and bombardment of eastern Aleppo, were not simply tragedies, they also constituted crimes of historic proportions.  Well over 300,000 Syrians had been killed and countless others wounded and traumatised in the course of this civil war – now also a proxy conflict, fuelled by cynical regional and international interests.  The ancient city of Aleppo, a place of millennial civility and beauty, was today a slaughterhouse – a gruesome locus of pain and fear, where the lifeless bodies of small children were trapped under streets of rubble and pregnant women were deliberately bombed.  The staff of the Office of the High Commissioner and the staff of the Commission of Inquiry had documented violations of international humanitarian law by all parties in Aleppo.  Armed opposition groups continued to fire mortars and other projectiles into civilian neighbourhoods of western Aleppo but indiscriminate airstrikes across the eastern part of the city by Government forces and their allies were responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties.  These violations constituted war crimes, and if knowingly committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against civilians, they constituted crimes against humanity.  Responsibility for halting the Syrian crisis rested primarily with the Security Council, but not exclusively, so the General Assembly may also have a role.
 
In the course of today’s deliberation, the High Commissioner urged members of the Human Rights Council to cast aside political disagreements and focus exclusively on the women, men and children whose suffering cried out for their help.  He urged the Council to call on the Security Council to set aside rivalries and act as one, in accordance with international security and peace.  Influence must be used to advance a political solution to the conflict.  Flows of arms and equipment to the parties to the conflict must cease.  The situation should be urgently referred to the International Criminal Court.  Every party to this conflict must know that they would be held accountable for the international crimes that they had committed, all without selective protection or discrimination.  In Aleppo, there must be an immediate prolonged and all-encompassing ceasefire to enable the passage of humanitarian relief to all in need, impartially and unconditionally.  The tireless work of the Commission of Inquiry, which honoured this Council, demanded support from all.  The High Commissioner urged all to refrain from making its work a pawn of political rancour. 
 
Keynote Statements
 
PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, stated that victims in Aleppo had had no protection from the overwhelming show of force that had been directed against them.  The dramatic escalation of violence that followed the collapse of the 10 September cessation of hostilities agreement had featured the use of heavy weapons, including bunker-buster bombs.  Temporary humanitarian pauses were not enough to provide adequate relief, and sustained, long-term efforts without conditionalities were necessary if aid was to reach those civilians in need.  Countless numbers of people, including children and pregnant women, had died from lack of medical care.  A number of non-State armed groups currently comprised the insurgency in Aleppo city; some of those groups had killed civilians in western Aleppo city with their indiscriminate barrage of mortars.  No one was safe from attack by the warring parties, stressed Mr. Pinheiro.  All warring parties had refused to adopt measures to protect innocent lives, and they refused to take responsibility for their actions.  The Aleppo Governorate had become a microcosm of the broader Syrian conflict, with a multitude of actors with competing interests settling scores rather than negotiating a peaceful political settlement.  Accountability of all parties to the conflict was critical, which was why referral of the conflict in Syria to the International Criminal Court or an ad hoc international justice mechanism was critical to resolving the conflict.  Mr. Pinheiro quoted the Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura who said that “without action Aleppo will not be there anymore” by the end of the year.  The Commission appealed again to the Government of Syria to allow it to conduct investigations in situ, and called upon European and regional States hosting Syrian refugees to grant the Commission access to their countries.  
 
CATALINA DEVANDAS AGUILAR, Member of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, speaking on behalf of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, said that the ongoing conflict in Syria had led to years of continuous desperation and unimaginable suffering for millions of people living in Syria.  On several occasions over the past years, mandate holders had publicly condemned and expressed their utter dismay at large scale violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and abuses, by different parties to the conflict, including massacres and other unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, hostage taking and enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, sexual violence, trafficking and sale for sexual and labour exploitation, destruction of cultural heritage as well as incitement to these crimes and to sectarian hatred.  The situation in Aleppo was particularly dire since the recent launch of a new offensive on opposition-held areas of the city by the Government and its allies.  The use of indiscriminate weapons, such as high-explosive blast bombs and incendiary weapons in airstrikes, on civilian populated areas by Government and allied forces, and albeit to a lesser extent, non-State armed groups and their allies, had resulted in the loss of hundreds of innocent lives, including more than 100 children, and destroyed the remaining infrastructure necessary to save and sustain human life.  The Coordination Committee condemned in the strongest terms the siege tactics used by the Syrian Government and other parties to the conflict and expressed deep concern about the restriction on the movement of civilians out of conflict areas.  The situation in Syria must be referred to the International Criminal Court and only by restraining the use of veto would the Security Council be able to do so. 
 
Statement by the Concerned Country
 
Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that the United Kingdom was once again leading a number of States trying to revive its colonial glory.  The group of States behind the resolution were not concerned about the well-being of the Syrian people, but were instead supporting terrorist organizations in Syria.  Syria rejected the lies and manipulations by Britain and its allies in the Human Rights Council.  There was no such thing as eastern or western Aleppo – there was only one city of Aleppo.  Aleppo had become a platform for terrorist groups to launch indiscriminate attacks, which had led to the death of scores of civilians on a daily basis.  The Syrian Government was working on ridding some areas of armed groups, and safe passage had been provided for civilians and fighters to leave safely and with guarantees.  Army units had retreated to positions which would allow fighters to leave through designated corridors. 
 
Debate
 
Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union was appalled by the deteriorating situation in Syria.  The escalating violence in Aleppo was causing untold and unacceptable suffering for thousands of its inhabitants.  Since the beginning of the offensive by the regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo had been clearly disproportionate and the deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and essential infrastructure, as well as the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs and chemical weapons, constituted a catastrophic escalation of the conflict.  The situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court.
 
Iceland, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, condemned the indiscriminate and excessive bombardments by the regime and Russia.  The Nordic countries called on all parties to allow humanitarian access to reach all people in need.  The Security Council should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, however, the Nordic countries deeply regretted that there clearly was a lack of political will to do so.  They also regretted that Russia once again had used its veto power on 8 October on a Security Council resolution on Syria.

United Kingdom said the Syrian people were enduring unspeakable suffering and this was nowhere more pronounced than in eastern Aleppo.  The artillery, airstrikes, barrel bombs and incendiary weapons were devastating civilian areas and infrastructure.  Hospitals had been bombed repeatedly.  Hundreds of civilians, many of them children, had been killed since the assault on eastern Aleppo was launched in September.  The United Kingdom condemned these heinous acts by Assad, his military and their Russian backers in the strongest terms. 
 
Qatar said that the continued shelling of Aleppo would turn it into a mass grave.  The regime should not be encouraged to continue crossing red lines; the regime was targeting moderate opposition and its campaign against Aleppo was in contradiction with international law.  The Council should send the message that the international community would not abandon the Syrian people.  Those responsible for massacres would one day be held accountable. 
 
Maldives stated that Aleppo was a testament to one of the greatest failures of the community of nations, and indeed every major organ of the United Nations.  Maldives acknowledged the cessation in bombings by Syria and Russia, to enable humanitarian needs to be addressed.  Maldives called for an immediate halt of attacks against civilians, and also called for those responsible for the ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity to be held accountable for those atrocities. 
 
Germany reminded that only three weeks ago the Council had passed a resolution stressing the importance of achieving a full cessation of hostilities in Syria.  However, in the last three weeks the level of violence had increased, as the campaigns of aerial bombardments had intensified and humanitarian aid had been blocked.  The appalling humanitarian situation in Aleppo could only improve if the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, ended all aerial bombardments and military flights and allowed full humanitarian access.  All responsible for any violations had to be held fully accountable.
 
China stated that the conflict in Syria should not be allowed to continue.  The international community should adhere to the general direction of a political solution based on the principle of the autonomous decision of the Syrian people on the future of their own country and the United Nations as the main channel of mediation, based on a cease fire, political negotiations, humanitarian assistance and a common combat against terrorism in order to seek a political settlement. 
 
France said that what was happening in Aleppo was repulsive.  The regime of Bashar Assad and his allies had made a choice of military acceleration and terror.  Famine and starvation were being used as weapons and this could constitute war crimes and was unacceptable.  The ceasefire and cessation of hostilities must be restored and humanitarian access ensured.  The International Criminal Court should be seized of this matter.  Syria’s allies, Germany and Iran, had to stop the bombardment of Aleppo. 
 
Mexico said that the Human Rights Council must underscore and ensure accountability for the serious violations and abuses listed in the report of the Commission of Inquiry and still ongoing in Syria.  Mexico expressed its deep concern about the situation in Aleppo and acts by all of the parties involved; 275,000 people were under siege in Aleppo and in September and October at least 406 persons had been killed, which was a sign that the Syrian population was the primary victim of the war.  The hostilities and the aerial bombardment must stop and humanitarian assistance must be provided.
 
United Arab Emirates said that all forms in violence still continued in Syria, including use of heavy weapons in inhabited areas.  There were reports that fundamental humanitarian aid was being denied to hundreds of thousands of people in the eastern part of the city of Aleppo.  The United Arab Emirates continued to provide significant humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and neighbouring countries.  There could be no military solution to the ongoing crisis.
 
Saudi Arabia stated that the level of destruction and suffering in Aleppo was unprecedented and represented crimes against humanity.  Saudi Arabia insisted that humanitarian access be provided to those in need, particularly those in eastern Aleppo.  Civilians were directly targeted, and the siege was used as a form of collective punishment.  The regime was applying a scorched earthy policy.  Those responsible should be identified and brought to justice before the International Criminal Court. 
 
Netherlands said that Aleppo had become a symbol of utter shame for the entire international community’s inability to act.  The shocking deliberate targeting of hospitals and schools by Syria and its allies, notably Russia, had to end immediately.  The Council could not remain silent; the primary focus should be on the immediate cessation of hostilities.  Achieving full accountability for crimes against humanity committed in Syria was non-negotiable.  There was no statute of limitation and justice had to be served.
 
Venezuela expressed concern over the interests of some powers which had convened this session as the Council had adopted a resolution on Syria less than three weeks ago and it saw no added value to today’s proceedings.  Venezuela condemned the geo-political interests of some powers which were fuelling the conflict.  Venezuela continued to alert the world to foreign powers that aimed to dominate sovereign States and take over their resources.  The provision of weapons to the different groups must be stopped.  Venezuela valued Russia’s support in the fight and its assistance to assure the respect of Syria’s sovereignty. 
 
Switzerland said it was the international community’s collective responsibility not to remain passive in front of indiscriminate attacks that had been systematically committed by all parties to the conflict, violating the rules of international humanitarian law relating to the conduct of hostilities, especially the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.  The climate of impunity encouraged the commission of crimes by the parties to the conflict in Syria and that was why it was fundamental to ensure that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity were brought to justice.
 
Russian Federation regretted that a certain group of countries was taking the Council far from reality.  The initiators of this session were trying to save the terrorists from being the subject of airstrikes and allow them to regroup.  These terrorists targeted the humanitarian corridors and used civilians as human shields.  A unilateral cessation of hostilities had been in place since yesterday.  This session and resolution were part of an information war.  The mass media was falsifying the situation and the truth and the crimes committed by the coalition were not being mentioned.  Terrorists were still being provided with aid and weapons. 
 
Nigeria said that the Syrian civil war had devastated Syria and its people.  Nigeria was alarmed that the number of those killed in the conflict was put at 470,000.  There was no doubt that the latest offensive on Aleppo had brought about harsh humanitarian conditions.  Nigeria believed that more comprehensive peace talks with an expanded membership were desirable, and called on the belligerents to allow the people access to humanitarian and relief materials.  The non-politicization of the conflict was necessary.
 
Slovenia was profoundly concerned about reports regarding indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians by all parties to the conflict, including by the Government forces and their backers.  Slovenia called urgently for a lasting cessation of hostilities that would allow sustainable humanitarian access and meaningful aid to be delivered to the civilians in besieged Aleppo.  The Syrian authorities had the primary responsibility to protect the population. The only solution was through a political process. 
 
Belgium noted that, since the last meeting of the Council and the adoption of a resolution on Syria, there had been a catastrophic escalation of the conflict.  The sustained aerial bombardment of a densely populated area like eastern Aleppo was unacceptable.  There were no justifications whatsoever for that kind of attacks.  There was no military solution to the conflict, and Belgium continued to support efforts by the Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. 
 
Latvia said it was the legal and moral responsibility of the Council to respond to gross violations of human rights when they occurred.  Latvia condemned recent attacks by the Syrian forces and their allies against the civilian population and joined those who called for the immediate cessation of hostilities and full humanitarian access.  The perpetrators of the crimes in Syria must be brought to justice and Latvia reiterated its conviction that the situation in Syria must be referred to the International Criminal Court.
 
Ecuador condemned how this Special Session was being convened.  This meeting had a purely political background and was convened without any clear justification of the urgency of the situation as the situation in Syria was discussed in September by the regular session of the Council.  The periodic and ongoing pursuit of Syria was prompted by political reasons rather than humanitarian reasons.  Ecuador rejected that the Council was being used to promote the agendas of certain powers and condemned the violence carried out by all actors to the conflict.
 
Republic of Korea said that in the last couple of weeks, the international community had witnessed unspeakable atrocities and inhumane tragedy in Aleppo.  The Republic of Korea was also deeply concerned about the casualties of the aerial bombing.  The Republic of Korea strongly condemned the serious violation of international human rights law and humanitarian law which amounted to a crime against humanity and a war crime, and welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision to establish an internal United Nations Board of Inquiry as a beginning step for seeking accountability for those crimes. 
 
Albania was gravely concerned by the deteriorating situation in Syria and the indiscriminate targeting and shelling of the civilian population in Aleppo by the Syrian Government.  Albania condemned the bombardment against opposition-controlled parts of the city, and was dismayed about the widespread use of torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial killings.  The unprecedented terrorist attacks carried out by Da’esh, Al Nusra and other groups were not linked to any religion.  The Syrian regime and its allies were called on to abide by the international humanitarian law.
 
Paraguay expressed its deepest preoccupation over the situation in Syria.  The first priority should be providing the highest level of protection to the civilian population, including 300,000 people under siege in Aleppo.  Paraguay called for an immediate end of attacks against civilian establishments, and unhindered access of humanitarian agencies and medical teams.  Great dismay was expressed over reports that the medial system in Aleppo was on the verge of collapse. 
 
Cuba believed that it was ever more pressing to find a solution to the Syrian war.  Despite all the obstacles, Cuba continued to believe that no effort should be spared to the goal of bringing peace.  There was again an attempt to cast blame on just one party to the conflict.  Using the Syrian conflict to promote one’s geopolitical interests did nothing to lay foundations for a peaceful solution to the conflict.  The Council could not be a platform to justify actions seeking to undermine the independence and sovereignty of Syria. 
 
Portugal said that gross human rights violations of international humanitarian law continued to be perpetrated on a large scale throughout Syria by all sides and in total impunity.  The recent escalation of violence in Aleppo was causing unacceptable suffering for thousands of civilians.  It was imperative to provide immediate relief to those in need in eastern Aleppo and other besieged areas.  Due accountability for all crimes committed in Syria was urgent and key to any effort conductive to a longstanding peace. 
 
Algeria condemned and refused all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and called on all parties to the conflict to comply with their international obligations.  Algeria was one of the first countries to call for a political solution to the Syrian crisis as it believed that a military option would only exacerbate and prolong the crisis.  Algeria called on all parties to support the general interest of Syria and its people and called on the international community to bring together the different points of view of the Syrian parties and encourage an atmosphere that would lead to a political solution to the crisis.  Algeria welcomed the Syrian and Russian ceasefire and called on all parties to create the necessary conditions to extend the ceasefire in Aleppo. 
 
Morocco welcomed the holding of the Special Session to consider the atrocious humanitarian situation in Aleppo in view of the continued violence.  The tragic humanitarian situation had compelled the international community and the Council to work on putting an immediate end to the violence and to ensure humanitarian assistance to civilians.  It was necessary to open safe corridors to ensure humanitarian access to Aleppo.  The gross violations of human rights in Aleppo had reached unprecedented levels of gravity.  Morocco condemned all these violations no matter who the perpetrators were and urged the need to identify those responsible.  The only solution was a political solution. 
 
Canada said that no strategy of war could justify the targeting of civilians.  Canada was troubled by the failure of the Security Council to assume its responsibilities in response to the crisis in Aleppo.  By approving the resolution today, the Human Rights Council would call for essential steps to be taken to bring the conflict to an end.  The need for full, safe and immediate unhindered humanitarian access was emphasized.
 
Czech Republic was alarmed by the gravity and intensity of widespread human rights violations and abuses.  All parties to the conflict were urged to stop committing indiscriminate attacks against the civilian population and infrastructure.  The Security Council should urgently refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  A political solution ought to be found in line with the Geneva Communique.
 
Australia stressed that the deplorable attacks on Aleppo were an affront to humanity and international humanitarian law.  Ultimately the only way to protect human rights in Syria was a negotiated political solution.  People’s rights were better protected by providing the required humanitarian assistance into their communities than by creating more displaced families.  
 
Thailand remained seriously concerned about the deteriorating situation in Syria and condemned all violations of human rights, especially given the intensification of attacks, particularly those against civilians and medical facilities.  Of utmost importance was the need to effectively protect civilians.  Thailand supported the hard work done by the Commission of Inquiry and hoped that it received the cooperation that it needed. 
 
New Zealand said that it was outrageous that the presence of less than 1,000 internationally designated terrorists was being used by the Syrian Government and its allies to justify large scale, indiscriminate attacks that brought death and devastation to a city of more than a quarter of a million civilians.  New Zealand supported the proposal to request the Commission of Inquiry to conduct a special investigation into the human rights situation in Aleppo.  Those with the power to halt this war must genuinely push for a meaningful political resolution. 
 
Poland strongly condemned the excessive and disproportionate attacks by the regime and its allies, particularly Russia, against civilian populations, humanitarian and healthcare personnel, and civilian and humanitarian infrastructures, and called on them to cease the indiscriminate aerial bombardments.  Poland believed that there could be no military solution to the conflict and only a sustainable political solution to the current crisis in Syria through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that met the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. 
 
Brazil said that the ongoing human rights crisis in Aleppo was of particular concern given the dimension of human suffering and the extent of civilian casualties.  Brazil reiterated that the only sustainable solution to the conflict was through a Syrian-led political process aimed at creating a credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance.  Brazil deeply regretted the high level of politicization that had made the consensus on the draft resolution unattainable.
 
Luxembourg was outraged and shocked by the high number of recent victims in Syria.  The humanitarian pause announced by Russia should lead to a more permanent cessation of hostilities.  Luxembourg called upon all parties to allow for unimpeded and durable humanitarian access.  The Syrian authorities and their allies, as well as all parties to the conflict, had to ensure the protection of civilians.  All perpetrators of crimes against humanity had to be identified and brought to justice. 
 
Jordan expressed its deep pain at the continuing deterioration of the situation in Syria, particularly in the city of Aleppo.  Jordan reiterated its principled position which called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a political process leading to a transition, in line with the Geneva Communique and other documents.  Political negotiations in Syria ought to be inclusive of all components of its people.  That was the only way to put an end to the crisis in Syria. 
 
Malaysia was gravely concerned at the massive and deteriorating human rights situation following the escalating violence in Aleppo.  Malaysia strongly demanded that all parties respected international human rights and humanitarian law and take necessary measures to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access to those in dire need of assistance.  Malaysia called for the urgent cessation of hostilities, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to civilians in Aleppo and across Syria, and supported all initiatives aimed at seeking accountability for the various human rights violations. 
 
Israel welcomed the convening of the Special Session and supported the draft resolution and would co-sponsor it.  The appalling situation in Aleppo certainly merited a special discussion in the Council  The humanitarian toll was the product, first and foremost, of the deliberate policies implemented by the Syrian regime, which continued to commit war crimes.  The United Nations and the international community should be allowed access to provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance in Aleppo.
 
Greece said that there could be no military solution to the conflict in Syria and a viable political solution was more needed than ever.  Greece was deeply concerned at the spread of extremism and the absence of protection of the rights of the civilian population, in particular all ethnic and religious groups.  Greece noted the dramatically increased numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees, including from Aleppo, who were seeking to escape from horror to Europe and elsewhere, including in or through Greece.  Greece hoped that a sustained ceasefire would be established.
 
Kuwait was among the most active countries trying to deal with the Syrian crisis.  Kuwait continued to support the Syrian people and would provide in the next few days further help to humanitarian agencies working in Syria.  Kuwait saw no use in continuing to exchange accusations or holding more meetings to find partial solutions.  What was needed was an end to the bloodshed and a solution corresponding to the aspirations of the Syrian people and preserving the territorial integrity of Syria.  
 
Holy See stated that the ongoing conflict had only produced a disastrous humanitarian situation, leaving many without the basic needs of food, water and medicines.  An effective response would begin with an immediate ceasefire, allowing humanitarian assistance through safe corridors to be provided for victims.  Pope Francis had appealed to all leaders to take steps for an immediate ceasefire to be imposed and respected. 
 
United Nations Children’s Fund said that in Syria a whole generation of children had been uprooted, scarred and broken by exposure to unspeakable horrors.  Violence against children in Syria had become commonplace.  UNICEF called on the members of the Human Rights Council to use their influence to protect the children of Syria, wherever they were.
 
Japan said that the situation in Aleppo required the urgent attention and action of the international community and it was crucial to restore the agreement on a cessation of hostilities as soon as possible in order to prevent further civilian casualties.  Japan urged all parties to the conflict to strictly observe international human rights and humanitarian law and enable full and unimpeded humanitarian access to all besieged and hard to reach areas.  Japan commended the Commission of Inquiry for its work to ensure accountability in the face of the human rights situation in Syria despite being denied access to the country.
 
Bahrain condemned the excessive use of force against civilians in Aleppo and the terrible humanitarian massacres and barbaric crimes committed.  Bahrain agreed with what the Secretary General of the League of Arab States said that what was happening in Aleppo was a real massacre, and supported the Gulf Cooperation Council’s condemnation of the Syrian Government attacks on Aleppo and its calls to ensure that humanitarian assistance reached besieged persons.  Bahrain welcomed the Special Session. 
 
United States welcomes this session to address the urgent and dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Aleppo.  Secretary Kerry recently described the situation in Syria as one of the “the largest humanitarian disasters since World War II.”  Over 275,000 people remain trapped in eastern Aleppo.  Russia and the regime’s recent assault had killed 400 people, including 100 children in markets, in bakeries, in schools, at water stations, in mosques, and even in hospitals.  Airstrikes by Russia and the regime were the cause of this devastation and suffering.
 
Liechtenstein believed that the veto in the Security Council on 8 October was a sad illustration of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its functions.  Liechtenstein said that the General Assembly also needed to step in, given the continued deadlock in the Security Council.  A referral of the situation Syria to the International Criminal Court was urgently needed, which would send an important signal against the current complete impunity in Syria. 
 
Costa Rica called for those responsible for peace and security in the United Nations to set aside their political differences and join forces on ending the suffering in Syria.  The youngest Syrians were bearing the largest brunt of the conflict.  The Council was called upon to adopt the draft resolution; the stakeholders should ensure safe and obstructed humanitarian corridors for aid to be delivered and civilians who wished to do so to leave besieged areas.
 
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stated that the recent announcement of a humanitarian pause was a welcome step, and the reality showed that the Syrian Government was doing its best to stabilize the situation of Aleppo.  All issues related to Syria should be decided and resolved in the interest of the Government and the people of Syria, by themselves.  Politicization, selectivity and double standards in the field of human rights needed to be avoided. 
 
Italy was deeply concerned and appalled by the gross and systematic human rights violations and abuses that continued to occur in Syria, and in particular in Aleppo, and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the city, with a view to a nationwide ceasefire.  Italy strongly supported the call of the Commission of Inquiry to seek accountability for the human rights violations and abuses.  Italy called on all parties to the conflict to end the violence and urged them to find a viable political solution, guaranteeing the multi-ethnic and multi-confessional character of the Syrian society.
 
Belarus advocated the United Nations playing a greater role in settling this conflict in Syria.  The nature and range of measures that the United Nations had at its disposal should be commensurate with the nature of the conflict.  Today’s discussion could not be considered as such measures.  The Council should abide by its remit and not substitute itself for the Security Council.  They must deploy all efforts to extend the humanitarian cessation of hostilities in Aleppo and must focus on the eradication of all forms of terrorist activity in Syria and create conditions for a Syrian dialogue that was as inclusive as possible.
 
Iraq said that Syria was the only party that had the right to determine its fate through the Constitution, democracy and elections.  However, Syria had become a place where States were settling their accounts, interfering in the internal affairs of Syria, and imposing the will of these countries on Syria.  The Council should not neglect the crimes that were committed by terrorist groups, which some called moderate opposition groups.  These groups were carrying out appalling crimes, especially in Aleppo, and should be condemned. 
 
Rwanda remained deeply concerned at the continuing deterioration of the situation in Syria and the resulting humanitarian crisis that had led to the displacement of millions.  It was a sad testament of the international community’s inability to fulfil its commitments under the Charter and to uphold its responsibility to protect the Syrian people.  Rwanda reiterated its commitment to a comprehensive peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria.
 
Egypt was concerned about the growing number of victims in Syria, in the situation which was the result of a proxy war.  The mandate of the Human Rights Council revolved around the protection and promotion of human rights, while the Security Council dealt with the issue of international security.  Egypt condemned the targeting of civilian targets by terrorists, including Da’esh.  There had to be an immediate ceasefire, and a political solution was the only solution.
 
Ukraine said that Aleppo was turning into another Grozny.  The lives of civilians in Aleppo had been made unbearable.  Ukraine condemned all terrorist attacks by Da’esh, Al Nusra and other related groups.  All perpetrators of humanitarian and human rights violations ought to be held accountable, regardless of their affiliation.   There had been a clear surge in airstrikes on Aleppo rather than a decrease, as announced on 5 October.
 
Turkey said the regime was mainly responsible for the horrific situation all-over Syria, not only in Aleppo.  The situation on the ground could only improve if deliberate and indiscriminate attacks by the regime and its supporters stopped; obstacles for sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access were removed and all relevant Security Council resolutions were implemented.  The besiegement of Aleppo was a clear and final sign that the regime was looking for a military solution.
 
Estonia strongly condemned the deliberate bombing by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, of civilians and humanitarian and healthcare personnel.  It called upon all parties, especially the Syrian regime and its allies, for the implementation of the nationwide cessation of hostilities, and to take urgent steps to ensure immediate and unhindered access of humanitarian aid, to reach all people in need.  All efforts should be done for the resumption of a political process under United Nations auspices for a genuine peaceful transition.
 
Ireland said the attacks in Aleppo, in particular the ongoing indiscriminate military attacks against a defenceless civilian population and critical civilian infrastructure, were horrific.  Ireland fully supported the demands for an immediate end to the targeting of civilians and the denial of access to humanitarian and medical assistance.  The Syrian regime had the primary responsibility for the protection of the Syrian population but it had repeatedly and flagrantly violated its international obligations.  Those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity must be held legally accountable for their crimes.
 
Pakistan said that the priority was an immediate end to the violence and human rights violations and abuses in Syria committed by all parties to the conflict.  The Human Rights Council should pass resolutions that were balanced, impartial and implementable and enjoyed the support of all Member States as well as the State concerned.  It was hoped that the outcome of today’s session would contribute to strengthening the ongoing peace process.
 
Sovereign Order of Malta asked for the respect in Aleppo and across the region of international humanitarian law, particularly the protection of civilians during hostilities, as well as medical personnel and hospitals.  The Sovereign Order of Malta stressed the importance of the respect of religious freedoms for all. 
 
Uruguay reiterated strong condemnation of the grave violations of human rights in the unending Syrian war, which had led to over 300,000 victims.  Uruguay deplored the failure of all initiatives aimed at reducing violence by all parties.  The city of Aleppo had become a paradigm of all possible atrocities that could be committed in an armed conflict.  Uruguay insisted that the violence had to cease immediately and the civilian population had to be protected. 

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