Interactive Dialogue on the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
As Delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Human Rights Council
UN Human Rights Council – Geneva
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 ongoing violations carried out by government forces and associated militias in Syria, many of which it concludes are war crimes and crimes against humanity. We also appreciate the COI’s efforts to document atrocities perpetrated by non-state armed groups, particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), whose conduct we condemn in the strongest terms.
The COI again notes the dire consequences of the regime’s continued air assault on Syrian cities. The United States echoes Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s strong condemnation of the Asad regime’s intensified bombing across Syria, and its severe effects on civilians and infrastructure, along with its unabated use of barrel bombs. In August the regime killed at least 1,623 civilians, including 289 women and 302 children, and tortured 77 people to death, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. The regime also committed a gruesome attack at a busy market on August 16 in Douma, killing at least 117 individuals, rendering it one of the single bloodiest attacks of the war. Days later, regime forces hit members of the Civil Defense Teams as they bravely attempted to save lives. These on-going attacks demonstrate the regime’s disregard for human life.
While we welcome its recent prisoner releases, including human rights defender Mazen Darwish, the regime continues to imprison tens of thousands of Syrians – including women, children, doctors, humanitarian aid providers, human rights defenders, and journalists – subjecting many to torture, sexual violence, inhumane conditions, and denial of fair trials. Those who survive Asad’s torture cells suffer devastating and lasting damage, as do their families The international community must collectively recognize the need to support victims, many of whom have been targeted due to their non-violent human rights activism.
Even in the face of this continued onslaught, courageous Syrians maintain their pursuit of peace, justice, and freedom. For example, despite grave risks, in August hundreds of brave Syrian women signed a joint plea for a ceasefire and humanitarian assistance in Zabadani. We admire the courage of Syrian civil society and continue to support their efforts.
The United States is working with our partners toward a genuine, negotiated political transition away from Asad that leads to a future that fulfills Syrians’ aspirations for peace, freedom and dignity.
Thank you, Mr. President.