Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
Address: Chemin des Fins 2, Case Postale 102, 1211 Geneva 19 - Telephone: 022 799 9100 - Fax: 022 799 9178

Human Rights Council – Urgent Debate on Syria

1 March  2012

Thank you Madam President

Australia condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the continuing violence committed by the Syrian authorities.

The violence in Syria has continued for almost a year and has escalated further with indiscriminate heavy weapons attacks on populated areas, such as on the city of Homs.

We note the 22 February UN Human Rights Commission Report on Syria, which catalogues the fact that the Syrian Government has committed widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations. The Report also found that anti-government groups have also committed abuses, although not comparable in scale or organisation to those carried out by the State.

We call on the Syrian authorities and all other parties to halt the violence immediately. It is imperative that those found responsible must be held to account and that allegations of serious international crimes are investigated.

It must be noted in this context that States are responsible for protecting their populations, and the international community must assist those who are in crisis.

Humanitarian access is critical in order to protect the safety, dignity and rights of the Syrian population.

We support the ICRC’s call for a daily pause in fighting to allow the injured to leave and seek medical attention and for urgent supplies to be distributed. And we urge all sides in Syria to grant safe and unhindered passage of humanitarian personnel and assets to all affected areas.

We call on the Syrian authorities to agree to and cooperate with the proposed visit to Syria by UN Humanitarian Affairs Chief, Valerie Amos.

Australia also welcomes the appointment of former UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, to the role of Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League to promote a peaceful resolution of the crisis

We call on the Syrian authorities to allow the special procedures of the Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the human rights situation.

Australia welcomed the opportunity to participate in the 24 February Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis. The wide representation at that meeting demonstrated the determination of the international community to end the violence and find a resolution to the humanitarian crisis. Australia strongly supports the Arab League’s efforts to this end.

Consistent with Australia’s words and actions on the situation in Syria during the last year we will continue to help galvanise international efforts to halt the violence and help the Syrian people.