Human Rights Council Statement on Syria Shows International Community’s Resolve

Press Statement by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Following the Delivery of a Joint Statement by Human Rights Council Members on the Situation in Syria

June 15, 2011

Geneva, Switzerland

Just six weeks ago the Human Rights Council held a Special Session on the urgent human rights crisis emerging in Syria. At that session, the Council unequivocally condemned the use of violence against peaceful protestors by Syrian authorities, and called upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to urgently dispatch a mission to Syria to investigate the Government’s ongoing violations of its citizens’ human rights. But the Syrian government has chosen intransigence and not allowed the High Commissioner’s office to enter Syria to investigate the Government’s ongoing human rights violations and crimes.

Regrettably, since the urgent Special Session, the already troubling human rights situation in Syria continues to deteriorate. The Syrian government continues to use its military and security forces against peaceful protestors, and over 1000 civilians have died. The wider international community has been shocked by horrific reports of torture and arbitrary arrests, and widespread use of lethal violence against peaceful protestors. Today, the Human Rights Council has spoken again and used its voice to pressure the Syrian authorities to stop these human rights violations. The international community demands the immediate halt of violent repression by Syrian security forces, and calls on the Syrian authorities to establish credible, independent and transparent investigations into these abuses, accountability for those who perpetrated them, and to allow unfettered access to the OHCHR mission to investigate allegations of human rights violations.

We believe that this statement will show the resolve of the international community to support human rights at a time of great conflict, unrest, and transition throughout the Middle East.

The United States strongly supports the universal rights of the Syria people, including the rights of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. They are universal. They are not negotiable. They must be respected in every country. And they cannot be denied through violence or suppression.

(End of Press Statement by Ambassador Donahoe)

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For Reference, the following is the Text of the Joint Statement delivered by the Representative of Canada at the 17th Session of the Human Rights Council on behalf of more than 50 co-signatories.

June 15, Item 4

Mr. President,

On April 29, the Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 16/1 which unequivocally condemned the use of lethal violence against peaceful protesters in Syria. It called for Syria to launch a credible and impartial investigation and to prosecute those responsible for attacks on peaceful protesters, to allow humanitarian access, and to cooperate fully with and grant access to the mission of the High Commissioner. The Council decided to remain seized of the matter.

Since the 16th Special Session of the Human Rights Council, the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic has dramatically deteriorated. On June 3, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanded an immediate end to the violent repression by security and military forces so that a genuine and inclusive dialogue could take place, leading to the comprehensive reforms and change called for by the Syrian people. The Secretary General also reiterated his call for a full, transparent and independent investigation into the killings.

On June 9, the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Syria to halt its assault on its own people. She condemned the Syrian authorities’ unrelenting violent crackdown on peaceful protestors across the country, stressing that “It is utterly deplorable for any government to attempt to bludgeon its population into submission, using tanks, artillery and snipers.” HC Pillay expressed particular concern about reports of civilians fleeing in the wake of recent threatening statements by Government officials. She urged States to keep their borders open for refugees fleeing Syria. The High Commissioner urged authorities to cooperate with her Office by granting her mission access to Syria “to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law and establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated.”

Likewise, the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect have noted that the systematic and widespread attacks appear primarily to have targeted the civilian population. This underscores the need for an independent, thorough, and objective investigation. Ten UN special procedure mandate holders have also spoken out about the human rights abuses in Syria. They have called on the Syrian government to stop the use of force against peaceful protestors, for credible, independent and transparent investigations into these abuses to take place, and accountability for those who perpetrated them.

Mr. President,

The cross-regional group of 54 States that have joined together to make this Statement fully share all these concerns.

More than 1000 people peacefully protesting for democracy respect for human rights and long-due reforms have reportedly been killed to date, and thousands arbitrarily detained. Credible observers provide daily reports of killings, arbitrary detention, and torture of men, women, and children. These reports must be independently verified. We call on the Syrian authorities to launch a credible and impartial investigation and bring those responsible for unlawful attacks against civilians to justice as called for in Special Session Resolution 16/1 and to cooperate fully with the OHCHR mission and allow them immediate access.

The continued violence, multi-day curfews and military lockdowns are restricting access to basic goods and services, such as health care, medicines and food, causing great concern for the situation of children, the elderly, the sick and wounded, as well as refugees and other vulnerable groups. Injured and wounded people must be allowed to seek treatment without fear of reprisals.

We call upon the Syrian Government to respect the will of its people and to implement reforms, taking meaningful steps to end censorship, restrictions on journalists and independent observers, and state control of the media. We also call on the Syrian Government to respect freedom of expression and of association and assembly and immediately lift restrictions on the media and the Internet that silence dissent. Arbitrary arrests, detention and torture, including of protestors, of human rights defenders, of representatives of the media, political dissidents, and young children must cease immediately.

In closing Mr. President,

Our strong cross-regional group of States urges the Government of Syria to cooperate with this Council to ensure that the human rights of all in Syria are fully respected. We reiterate our call on the Syrian Arab Republic to immediately allow the mission of the High Commissioner unfettered access to investigate and establish the facts and circumstances surrounding all violations and abuses of international human rights law.

Thank you Mr. President.

(End text of joint statement read by Canada)