Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council
On the Situation of Human Rights in the Syrian Arab Republic
at the Human Rights Council, 16th Special Session
Geneva, April 29, 2011-As prepared for delivery-
The purpose of this Special Session of the Human Rights Council is to make clear that the international community strongly condemns the killing, arrest and torture of peaceful protestors taking place in Syria, even as we speak. To the Syrian Government, we are sending a clear and unequivocal message that we will not turn a blind eye as you arbitrarily imprison, torture, and kill your own citizens. To the brave people of Syria, who are demanding freedom and dignity, we are here to say that the world stands by you, and we will not ignore your plight.
Members of the Human Rights Council are gathered today to express our outrage at the extreme violence used by the Syrian government to silence their citizens’ universal rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and participation in the affairs of their state. We condemn their brutal methods of silencing dissent, through shooting unarmed peaceful demonstrators and torture.
In Syria over the past five weeks, we have watched with alarm as the level of government repression and use of lethal violence has escalated. Reports of Syrian deployment of tanks in multiple cities and the use of live fire to quell protests have shocked the international community. Reports indicate that the death toll of protestors is in the hundreds and rising every day. The town of Dara’a continues to be under siege with the security services conducting house to house searches. Syrian forces are rounding up citizens by the hundreds and have attacked unarmed peaceful protestors in mosques. The use of force by the Syrian government to quell peaceful political demonstrators will not be tolerated by the international community.
We note that the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and a group of ten UN special procedure mandate holders, have called on the Syrian government to stop the excessive use of force against peaceful protestors, and called for investigations on and accountability for the abuses. We remind all that security professionals are personally accountable if they carry out unlawful orders to kill peaceful protestors. We also are concerned about restrictions on freedom of movement within Syria and reports that the Syrian government is denying access to border crossings out of Syria, which violates the right to leave one’s country. The Syrian government’s censorship, control of media, and restrictions on journalists and internet access is deeply troubling.
While the Syrian government responds to peaceful protests with lethal force, it is lobbying to become a member of this body. Governments that turn guns on their own people have no place in this chamber. Countries engaged in such egregious and ongoing human rights abuses are not qualified to be members of the Human Rights Council. The United States is strongly opposed to Syrian membership. We encourage other members to oppose their candidacy.
The U.S. stands with all of those calling for peaceful transitions, democracy, and greater protection for human rights in the region, including Bahrain and Yemen. To those who have been injured or lost loved ones during the violence, the people of the United States extend our deepest sympathy and condolences. This moment of profound transformation belongs to the people of the Middle East. We are inspired by what they are doing and what it means for the future.