15 November 2016, New York – European Union Statement at the 71st United Nations General Assembly Third Committee on the Resolution on the situation of human rights in Syria
EU general statement
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the EU.
The EU is appalled by the deteriorating situation in Syria.
The escalating violence in Aleppo is causing untold and unacceptable suffering for thousands of its inhabitants. Since the beginning of the offensive by the regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate and indiscriminate and the deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and essential infrastructure, as well as the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons, constitute a catastrophic escalation of the conflict and have caused further widespread civilian casualties, including amongst women and children and may amount to war crimes. We also condemn any deliberate attacks by armed groups on civilians, including in schools, in Western Aleppo. The crisis is exacting a terrible toll on civilians, including children; displacements of populations both within Syria and to countries in the region and beyond have reached unprecedented magnitude. We underline that the Syrian regime has the primary responsibility for the protection of the Syrian population.
The EU therefore strongly condemns the attacks by the regime and its allies against civilian populations and goods, humanitarian and healthcare personnel and civilian and humanitarian infrastructures and calls on them to cease immediately indiscriminate aerial bombardments. The EU condemns the continued systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law by all parties. The EU condemns the atrocities committed by Da’esh and other UN designated terrorist groups and reaffirms its strong commitment to combat them. Da’esh and other UN-designated terrorist organizations constitute a threat for the future of Syria as well as to the interests and values of the EU.
We reiterate our strong support to the efforts by the Commission of Inquiry on Syria to investigate and preserve evidence of grave human rights violations committed in Syria for possible future criminal prosecutions or a future justice process. The Commission’s ongoing efforts in documenting violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law are to be commended, and supported. The EU urges the Syrian regime to cooperate with the Commission and grant it unhindered access to the country.
Furthermore, the targeting of a UN humanitarian convoy on 19 September was a clear violation of international law, and requires full investigation
The EU condemns in the strongest terms the confirmed use of chemical weapons confirmed in the JIM report) and widespread attacks on civilians and human rights violations and abuses, by the Syrian regime and Da’esh. All those responsible for such breaches of international law, in particular of international humanitarian law and human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, must be brought to justice, including those committing crimes against persons belonging to religious, ethnic and other groups and minorities. Impunity for such crimes is unacceptable and thus the EU will continue to support efforts to gather evidence in view of future legal action. The EU recalls its conviction that the situation in Syria should be referred to the ICC and renews its call to the UN Security Council to take action in this respect.
It is important to ensure that resolutions on human rights concerns remain objective and are not overtly politicised. The primary purpose of the resolution is to urge the respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, including the protection of all civilians. With reference to resolution L.24 the EU is concerned about the listing in OP24 that refers to foreign terrorist fighters, foreign organisations and foreign forces fighting on behalf of the Syria regime. The dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria deserves a well-supported resolution and should not be put at risk. Our common objective is to advance the political track which is the quickest way to bring peace to Syria and an end to the suffering of the Syrian people. The EU firmly believes that there can be no military solution to the conflict. The EU reiterates its commitment to the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the Syrian state.
The EU recalls its strong commitment to democracy and inclusive government as the only way to ensure lasting respect for human rights. In Syria, it recalls its commitment to obtain a peaceful transition, in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2254. Only once an inclusive political transition is in place will the EU be able to assist with the reconstruction of the country directly and through international organizations, an EU objective that will enable the millions of Syrians who have been forced to flee their homes to return to them and live in peace and security in their own lands.
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