Ambassador Keith Harper
Comments at Syria Side Event
Tuesday, June 10 12:00 – 14:00
I want to thank France, Qatar and Turkey for convening this important meeting today. I will join all here in saying what we know: The photographs and the information contained in the “Caesar” Report are a shock to the conscience. They further underscore the brutality of the Syrian conflict and the immediate need for an end to the violence. I want to publicly commend the bravery of those who helped smuggle out these photos so we can see clear evidence of atrocities. I want to commend the survivors here today; your words and your story are a powerful testament. They are a call to action.
I join the people of Syria in their demand for a thorough investigation of egregious mass torture and death. Let us be clear, the record conclusively demonstrates that the Syrian government has committed and continues to commit atrocities. These photos should be shared with the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria for archiving and further authentication.
The torture of prisoners is an appalling assault, not only on human lives, but on human dignity and on every standard by which the international community tries to organize itself.
We are outraged by the Asad regime’s continued detention of tens of thousands of Syrians – including women, children, doctors, humanitarian aid providers, human rights defenders, journalists, and civilians from opposition controlled areas. As these heartbreaking images only reinforce, they continue to be routinely subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and extrajudicial killings.
We are all focused on stopping the killing and harm to civilians. We are also focused on accountability – and laying the groundwork for ending impunity, through support for the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) and other entities, such as the Syria Justice and Accountability Center (SJAC). The SJAC was established by the U.S. and other countries to coordinate documentation on ongoing crimes committed by all sides of the conflict.
The United States continues to urge all parties to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) unfettered access to all detention facilities, including intelligence branches and military bases where many political prisoners are held and some of the worst torture is taking place. And we remain steadfast in our call that the COI be allowed full access inside Syria to fulfill its mandate.