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Ambassador Donahoe: The Syrian People Cannot Wait
August 22, 2011

Statement by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe,
U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council,

at the Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

August 22, 2011

Thank you Madame President.

For the second time this year, we join a special session on the human rights situation in Syria to make clear the international community’s grave and growing concerns over the rapidly deteriorating situation there.

We condemn in the strongest terms, the ongoing slaughter and callous brutality unleashed by the Assad regime against the Syrian people.

The Syrian government’s abuses have been condemned by leaders in the region and from every region of the world.  Increasingly, the international community is speaking with one voice to denounce the Syrian regime’s horrific violence.

The condemnation from Syria’s neighbors shows that the Assad regime is more isolated than ever.

Our message to the Syrian Government is clear:  We will not turn a blind eye as you deliberately and ruthlessly imprison, torture, and kill your own citizens.

To the brave people of Syria who are demanding freedom and dignity, we send the message that the world stands by you, and we will not ignore your plight.

The human rights situation in Syria is extremely grave and deteriorating.  The death toll continues to rise.  Regime security forces continue to engage in house-to-house raids, mass arrests, and the torture of prisoners.  We have heard multiple accounts from human rights groups of the Assad regime’s security forces interrogating and abusing detainees in large facilities such as stadiums and factories.  There are also credible reports of detainees being tortured to death and of bodies returned to families bearing signs of torture.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict also reported this week of allegations that children have been tortured by security forces.

The United States deplores Assad’s campaign of ever-increasing brutality and terror against unarmed innocents, which may amount to crimes against humanity.  The regime’s horrific actions – the systematic violence, the mass arrests, and the outright murder of civilians – show its disdain for the will of the Syrian people, and for the calls of the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, regional leaders and the international community to end the violence immediately.

Assad’s chosen course also defies the clear demands contained in the UN Security Council’s Presidential Statement.  And the regime’s continued assault on civilians flies in the face of a commendable initiative by the Turkish government, which warned the Assad regime that it must halt its attacks on civilians immediately and unconditionally.

This is not the work of the fictional “armed gangs” invoked by Assad’s propagandists.  The regime has made a conscious choice to continue to deploy security forces throughout the country to prevent demonstrations, to attack civilians, and to arrest activists and protesters on a massive scale.  The Assad regime has no intention of ceasing its violent attacks against the Syrian people.

We welcome the recent report of the Syria Fact Finding Mission, called for at this Council’s April 29 Special Session.  We also welcome the statements made by the Security Council, including the August 3 Presidential Statement.  Today we must take firmer actions to halt the ongoing crackdown against the Syrian people.  The United States supports the call for an international, transparent, independent and prompt investigation into alleged violations of international human rights law by Syrian authorities.  And we will work with our partners so that those responsible for crimes will be held accountable, either through the courts of a democratic Syria or through international processes.

The Syrian people cannot wait. As President Obama said last week, “the time has come for President Assad to step aside… We recognize that it will take time for the Syrian people to achieve the justice they deserve.  There will be more struggle and sacrifice.  It is clear that President Assad believes that he can silence the voices of his people by resorting to the repressive tactics of the past.  But he is wrong…It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.”

Thank you.