Interactive Dialogue on the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Keith M. Harper
UN Human Rights Council – Geneva
June 23, 2015
We welcome the update by the Commission of Inquiry (COI). Despite the Asad regime’s denial of access, the COI continues to provide critical reporting on the ongoing violations carried out by government forces and associated militias. We appreciate the COI’s documentation of atrocities by non-state armed groups, particularly ISIL, whose conduct we strongly condemn.
Since this Council last met, the situation in Syria has further deteriorated.
In May alone, regime forces killed 1,713 civilians, including 236 children. ISIL killed 197 civilians, including nine children, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).
ISIL and Al Nusra Front continue to commit widespread abuses, including attacks against civilians, kidnapping, targeted killings, abusing and recruiting children, and trafficking women.
The regime continues to drop barrel bombs on civilian areas.
The regime continues to imprison tens of thousands of Syrians – including women, children, doctors, humanitarian aid providers, human rights defenders, and journalists – subjecting them to torture, sexual violence, inhumane conditions, and denial of fair trials.
According to SNHR, 82 people were tortured to death – which amounts to three people per day – in May 2015 alone. Those who survive Asad’s torture cells suffer lasting damage.
The international community should do more than solely condemn ongoing abuses; we must be responsive to the needs of released political prisoners and torture survivors. We must collectively recognize the need for psychological and other types of support for victims who have been targeted due to their activism.
Since the Council last met, a defector has provided new information on the gruesome torture and murder of thousands of prisoners in Military Hospital 601, including locations of mass graves. We encourage the COI to investigate the killing of prisoners by regime forces, including 20 in one day, as they retreated from contested areas in Idlib in late March 2015.
We appreciate the COI’s statement to assist national authorities with prosecutions, and encourage it to maximize accountability efforts.
Even in the face of this continued onslaught, courageous Syrians maintain their pursuit of peace, justice, and freedom. Let us recall the work of human rights activist Mazen Darwish of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, who worked to document abuses, and whom the regime continues to imprison unjustly.
We support these brave Syrians’ efforts and call on the regime to release all arbitrarily detained persons.