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Ambassador Harper: Statement on Syria the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council
June 17, 2014

Man speaks in microphone
Ambasssador Keith Harper

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 – 26th Session
Geneva, June 17, 2014

As Delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper
U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council

Mr. President,

Mr. President. We welcome the report by the Commission of Inquiry.  It paints a grave picture of continued abuses and rampant violations of human rights of civilians in Syria.

Despite the Asad regime’s denial of access, the Commission continues to provide critical reporting on the ongoing gross violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law carried out by government forces and associated militias.

The atrocities include murder, hostage-taking, enforced disappearances, torture, rape, sexual violence, targeting civilians, and the indiscriminate use of barrel bombs.

We also appreciate the Commission’s  efforts to document the abuses and violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated by non-state armed groups, particularly by Jabhat Al-Nusra and ISIL, whose conduct we strongly condemn.

In the time since the Council last met, the situation in Syria has further deteriorated.

Delivery of humanitarian assistance continues to be impeded, and the Asad regime has not stopped dropping barrel bombs on civilian areas.

The regime also continues to imprison tens of thousands of Syrians – including women, children, doctors, humanitarian aid providers, human rights defenders, journalists, and others – subjecting them to torture, sexual violence, inhumane conditions, and the denial of fair trials.

The Commission describes the deplorable situation in detention facilities where the regime carries out a systematic pattern of torture and abuses while barring international monitors.  This is the record. These are the facts.  Facts that are further evidenced by the compelling “Caesar Report.”

Perhaps the Commission can comment on the recently released photos from the Aleppo central prison.

Instead of serving as an opportunity for the people of a free society to choose their leaders, the Asad regime’s illegitimate and staged election carried on a 40-year legacy of oppression that crushed the Syrians people’s aspirations for peace and prosperity.

We call upon on the Asad regime to cease its attacks and genuinely engage in a peaceful negotiated settlement.

Even in the face of this continued onslaught, courageous Syrians maintain their pursuit of peace, justice, and fundamental freedoms, while civil society and human rights defenders document abuses and violations committed by both the regime and armed groups.

Let us recall the work of human rights activist Razan Zeituneh, who has played a critical role in documenting human rights violations and calling for peace as the founder of the Violations Documentation Center.

She, her husband, and colleagues Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil, and Nazem Hammadi, were abducted and kidnapped in Douma in December 2013.  Their whereabouts are still unknown.  We call for their immediate release.

And we call for greater accountability.

Thank you.