The Human Rights Council calls on the Syrian Government to immediately end attacks on civilians

In its resolution the Human Rights Council “deplores the Syrian regime’s brutal actions over the past 11 months” and “strongly condemns the continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental rights by the Syrian authorities… “ Describing the situation as a “humanitarian crisis”, the Council called on the Syrian Government “to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against civilians, to cease all violence and to allow free and unimpeded access by the UN and humanitarian agencies…”

The resolution was passed with 37 States voting in support, three voting against and three abstentions.

Speaking during the urgent debate, UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay said her Office has been receiving reports of a rapidly deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria. She referred to reports that the Syrian army is using heavy artillery to cordon off cities and shell densely populated neighbourhoods in what appears to be an indiscriminate attack on civilian areas.

Pillay referred to “massive campaigns of arrest” by the Syrian military and security forces and an “escalation of violence in the country.” Blockades have made it impossible for the injured to reach hospitals or for supplies of food, water and medical supplies to reach residents, she said.

Armed attacks by anti-government fighters have also reportedly increased, Pillay said. The Syrian Government has provided the UN Human Rights office with casualty figures which put the total number of deaths - civilians, soldiers and police officers - between March of last year and mid January 2012 at more than 3,800. The UN Human Rights office believes the actual numbers maybe many more, she said.

“What is urgently needed today is for the killings to stop,” Pillay said. “Those committing atrocities in Syria have to understand that the international community will not stand by and watch this carnage and that their decisions and the actions they take today ultimately will not go unpunished.”

Pillay said she believed that the situation of Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Prosecutor of the ICC is able to initiate an investigation on the basis of a referral from a State Party or from the UN Security Council.

The High Commissioner and many of the speakers in the debate called on the Syrian authorities to cooperate with international mechanisms, particularly the newly appointed joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan.

President of the UN General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser noted the three special sessions held by the Human Rights Council to discuss events in Syria and commended both the Council and High Commissioner for increasing the attention of the international community on the situation. The Syrian authorities must immediately end all killings and all human rights violations, Al-Nassar said.

Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui, representing Syria, said it was the desire of some to use the Human Rights Council for “slander and libel”. The real aim of the meeting, Hamoui said, was “to cover up the murder and violence of armed groups directed against innocent civilians”. The Syrian Government, he said, was aware that the quality of services had regressed but “armed groups” have targeted State infrastructure including educational and health institutions.

Hamoui also said the economic sanctions imposed on Syria had “painful and negative effects” on the Syrian people causing shortages of medical supplies, vaccines, fuel and electricity. The international community, he said, should stop “enticing and exciting sectarian violence”. The action by the Human Rights Council, he said, would “fuel the flames of terrorism and prolong the crisis.”

In conclusion, Hamoui rejected the legitimacy of the urgent debate and the resolution.

More than 70 Member States, Observer States and Non-Governmental Organizations took part in the urgent debate.

1 March 2012


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