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

CROSS-REGIONAL STATEMENT ON THE DETERIORATING HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN SYRIA

(INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON SYRIA)

Madame President,
Distinguished Members of the Commission of Inquiry,


We make this statement on behalf of 39 States: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Luxembourg, Maldives, Monaco, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain, St Kitts and Nevis, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America.

Again, the Human Rights Council, as per its mandate and raison d’etre, is compelled to speak of the dire human rights situation in Syria. Once again, we come to the conclusion that the crisis is spiraling even further downwards, with no end in sight. Once again, we feel the frustration at not being able to reach out to the suffering Syrian people with one unified voice from the United Nations.

“Crimes against humanity”, “massacres”, “torture”, “sexual violence”… These have become words and phrases which are regularly used to describe the ongoing policy of the Syrian Government.

The escalation of violence has reached proportions that we thought unimaginable just a year ago.

The testimonies given by two Syrian human rights defenders at the side event on the human rights situation in Syria held here last week were painful reminders of that fact. Mr. Al Hassani and Mr. Matar, bearing witness to the atrocities being committed in Syria, made us more aware than ever of the situation in that country.

The Syrian Government and the pro-government militias have shifted dramatically in their use of violence against the Syrian people, which started off as an excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators and has only become more egregious over time. In a desperate and blind attempt to establish control, the government has increasingly engaged its military troops and heavy equipment, such as tanks and helicopters, in operations against civilians. Attack helicopters are now reported to be firing indiscriminately at civilians in various parts of the country. Mortars and artillery shelling are regularly employed by Government forces. The utterly inhumane policy of targeting civilian centers, resulting in multiple massacres and horrific violence against hundreds of women and hundreds of little children being killed, tortured, murdered appalls us all.

It is estimated that the number of casualties due to this senseless and barbaric violence committed by the Syrian regime has now reached more than twenty thousand. This cannot continue.

Just two months ago, more than 107 countries and organizations comprising the “Group of Friends of the Syrian People” met in Paris and expressed their grave concern with regard to the alarming regional repercussions caused by the continued crisis in Syria in terms of regional security, stability, economic development and outflow of refugees. They tried to enunciate credible formulae to overcome the humanitarian catastrophe. We look forward to the next meeting of the Group of Friends in Morocco in this regard.

It is truly difficult to ignore the reality that the situation in Syria has now become a serious threat to international peace and stability. All members of the international community must take responsibility in putting an end to the atrocities committed by the regime against the people of Syria, enable the democratic transition in accordance with the legitimate demands of the people and thereby restore security and stability in this part of the world.

The humanitarian situation alone should be sufficient to mobilize the international community. Due to the ongoing violence, entire communities are suffering from a lack of food, fuel, water, electricity and medical supplies. Tens of thousands of Syrians have been internally displaced or have fled to neighboring countries. In light of the serious and growing burden carried out by the neighbors of Syria in hosting the Syrian refugees, we reiterate the invitation of the General Assembly to the UNHCR and the international community to provide assistance to host countries to respond to the growing humanitarian needs of the Syrian refugees. The critical humanitarian situation can only be resolved if all violence in the country is halted immediately.

As we speak of an end to the violence, of a Syrian-led political transition that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people, the issue of accountability will figure more prominently on the agenda. The fight against impunity requires individual responsibility. We want to address a message to those who have intentionally committed crimes in Syria as well as those who have ordered, planned, instigated, incited, aided or abetted those crimes: they will be held accountable. A list of individuals and units believed to be the main perpetrators is being kept by the UN.

Finally, we would like to thank the Commission of Inquiry for its unrelenting work on the human rights situation in Syria. Despite many obstacles, the foremost among them being the lack of access to the country, the Commission has been able to reveal a critically important perspective on the human rights crisis in Syria. Thanks to dozens of visits to the region by the limited number of personnel accorded to it, the international community now has a wealth of information at hand about the violations of international law that have tragically led to so much suffering. We hope the Council will continue to provide its support to the Commission.

We will continue to support the aspirations of the Syrian people for democracy, human rights and freedom.

Thank you.