HRC Special Session on Syria

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17th HRC special Session: Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

Following the HRC 16th Special Session, held on April 2011, which sent an "urgent mission to Syria in order to investigate alleged violations of human rights”, this 17th session focused on implementing a resolution calling the Syrian regime of Bachar Al-Assad" to stop at once all the acts of violence against the population." This meeting was convened by 24 Member states including the four Arab Member states of the Council: Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

At the opening of the session, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, estimated that 2200 people lost their lives since the beginning of the revolt in mid-March.

The Special Session is intended to increase pressure on the regime in Damascus and to shed light on the atrocities considered as “crimes against humanity“ committed by the Syrian security forces. 

The resolution condemns in strong terms the "continued grave and systematic violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters and human rights defenders, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment of detainees, also of children" and calls upon the Government of Syria to stop the violence and "to release immediately all prisoners of conscience and arbitrarily detained persons." It dispatches an Independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since the month of March 2011, and to identify those responsible with a view to ensure perpetrators of violations are held accountable.

After lengthy negotiations, the resolution was put to a vote and was adopted with 33 votes in favour, 4 against (China, Cuba, Ecuador and Russia) and 9 abstentions (Angola, Bangladesh, Cameroun, Djibouti, India, Malaysia, Mauritania, Philippines and Uganda). The Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China strongly opposed the resolution.

The Syrian representative to the Council denounced "the pressure" exercisedby"big States" as a means to "compromise" Syria and to "politicize" the debate. He stated that the contents of the reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights are "biased." He refutes accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He added that "our country has initiated a reform process, which is going to make of this country a pluralistic country, which will become an example to be followed in the region and in the world.” The representative of Syria asserted that the army intervened to defend the population which was attacked by "armed gangs.”

Poland, on behalf of the EU, condemned the violent attacks against peaceful demonstrators but also the non-respect of individual freedom.”The international community must act rapidly and effectively, the sending of a mission to Syria is necessary. The Syrian government has not kept its promises and prevented the mission of inquiry from working effectively according to the resolution of April 2011.

The United States reaffirmed their attention to the increase of violence in Syria. They insisted that they would not turn a blind eye to this bloody repression, highlighting that even children are tortured. They are more than ever in favour of sending of international commission on inquiry. It is time for President Assad to resign.

The Russian representative stated that the Human Rights Council has “to recognize that Syria is undertaking democratic reforms showing that the country is trying to communicate and listen to its people.” Furthermore, he warned thatthe entire responsibility cannot be put only the Syrian government and that it is dangerous to set unilateral conclusions.

The representative of China declared that the future of Syria must be dictated only by Syrian people and not by external actors. The Council must “promote an objective dialogue without exerting any pressure.

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