Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
United States Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council
Special Session on Syria Stakeout
June 1, 2012
Ambassador Donahoe: Thank you all for being here. As you know, the Human Rights Council met [inaudible] with the crisis in Syria for the past year. This is the fifth time, in fact, that we have called an urgent session to address the human rights violations in Syria. Four special sessions and an urgent debate. We started in April, then another one in August, December, and then we had an urgent debate in March. That number of urgent sessions speaks for itself. No government with any claim to legitimacy would ever generate such focused attention by this Council.
The Assad regime is engaged in a war on its own people. It is the duty and responsibility of this Council to speak out and do what it can to defend the humanity and basic civil rights of the Syrian people.
The May 25th massacre in Houla is the most unambiguous demonstration to date of the Syrian government’s flagrant brutality and its utter lack of legitimacy. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has highlighted the evidence of deliberate, systematic and ruthless targeting of innocent children and women in Houla as well as the Assad regime’s cynical denial of these facts.
The horrific massacre perpetrated by the regime’s thugs in Houla was a truly outrageous occurrence. This is not just another incident in the conflict. It was an absolute abomination in which of the more than 100 victims, almost half were children and a third were women, many executed at close range.
There is no gray area here or need for interpretation in this case. It was simply the cold blooded murder of more than 100 people including at least 30 children under the age of 10.
The international community and the Syrian people want justice and demand that those responsible for the unspeakable crimes be held accountable. The Human Rights Council’s action today will lead to the fulfillment of those demands. This Council serves an important role in shining a spotlight on these crimes and in creating a means to collect evidence of these horrific international crimes to ensure that justice and accountability will be done. Our message has been very clear. The reckless killing and abuse of the Syrian people must stop and the perpetrators must be identified and held accountable.
This is a moment of truth for the international community and particularly for those members of the Human Rights Council who do not support this resolution. All members of the international community must come to terms with the truth. The window of opportunity to use our collective leverage and stop the downward spiral in this conflict is closing. We are at risk of a widening regional conflict. Now is the time to come together and put pressure on the Syrian regime to stop these massacres, end the violence, and allow the Syrian people to transition to a legitimate government.