Interactive Dialogue on the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
UN Human Rights Council – Geneva
As Delivered by Kim D’Auria-Vazira
March 18, 2014
We welcome the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria and thank the commission for its extremely important work over the past two and a half years, despite the Asad regime’s refusal to cooperate and grant access to the Commission.
As we gather today, three years after the start of the Syrian revolution, more than 100,000 people have died, 6.5 million internally displaced, and more than 2.5 million have fled to nearby countries as refugees. The COI has again reported additional and ongoing gross violations carried out by government forces and militias, including murder, hostage-taking, enforced disappearances, torture, rape, unlawful use of child soldiers, targeting civilians, and the indiscriminate use of barrel bombs. We appreciate the COI’s efforts to document the abuses and violations perpetrated by non-state armed groups, including by Jabhat Al-Nusra and ISIL, whose conduct we strongly condemn.
We are deeply concerned about the 250,000 Syrians trapped in besieged areas without access to food, water, or medicine. We strongly condemn the Government of Syria’s “starvation until submission campaign” and call for immediate and full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2139.
The Asad regime continues to imprison tens of thousands of Syrians – including women, children, doctors, humanitarian aid providers, human rights defenders, journalists, and civilians from opposition controlled areas – who are subjected to torture, inhumane treatment, and death. The COI again describes the deplorable situation in regime detention facilities where the regime carries out a systematic pattern of torture and bars international monitors, including the COI. We have questions for the COI on this subject. What percentage of prisoners are being held due to their political activity as human rights defenders? How many prisoners have died as a result of torture? Could the COI comment on recent widely-publicized allegations that 11,000 people may have died in Syrian prisons as a result of torture and starvation?
The violations highlighted again in this report are horrific. Yet, even in the face of such egregious abuses, courageous Syrians continue their relentless pursuit of peace, justice, and fundamental freedoms. Let us not forget the aims of the peaceful protesters in March 2011 who called for the end of torture and demanded respect for human rights. Syrians continue to bravely protest violations and abuses committed by the regime and armed groups. We support these brave Syrians’ efforts and call for the regime and others to be held to accountable for the violations committed. The U.S. government calls on the Asad regime to cease their attacks and genuinely engage in substantive discussions in a peaceful negotiated settlement. Thank you, Mr. President.