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22 February 2016, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union at the General Assembly Informal Plenary to listen to a briefing by the Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, Mr. Pinheiro, on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

– Final –

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

Mr. President,

The EU would like to thank you, Mr. President, for organizing this important meeting today and Chair Pinheiro for his valuable briefing. We are convinced that it is important that the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic established by the Human Rights Council can brief regularly the UN General Assembly on its work, its findings and its recommendations.

The EU thanks the Commission of Inquiry for its valuable work and in particular for its 10th Report published last September and for its thematic report on deaths in detention published earlier this month. We support the recommendations contained in those reports and we commend the Commission’s on-going efforts in documenting violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties. By collecting first-hand information and documenting incidents, the Commission is laying the groundwork for accountability for those responsible of the many atrocities committed in Syria. In a moment in which, unfortunately, violence continue to increase and crimes and atrocities continue to be committed, the EU believes that the role of the Commission continues to be of great importance. We therefore support the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry during the upcoming Human Rights Council in March.

Mr. President,

The EU is appalled by the unspeakable atrocities committed in Syria against the civilian populations as detailed in the reports of the Commission of Inquiry. Gross and widespread systematic violations and abuses of human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law continue unabated, committed by the Syrian regime and by armed groups and terrorist groups, including Jabhat al Nusra and Da’esh. Women and children are particularly exposed.

The EU reiterates that the bombings and targeting of civilian areas and structures like hospitals and schools is completely unacceptable. The systematic targeting of civilians by the regime has led to mass displacements and encouraged recruitment to and the flourishing of terrorist groups in Syria. The European Union calls once again on all parties to cease all attacks and bombing of civilian targets, take all appropriate steps to protect civilians, including members of ethnic, religious and confessional communities, put an end to sieges of civilian areas, fully respect international humanitarian law and implement the relevant UNSC resolutions, also recalling that the primary responsibility to protect its population lies with the Syrian regime.

Also, as described in your latest report, the killing and torture of detainees in Syrian prisons – including women and very young children – has continued for more than five years now. All perpetrators of such crimes need to be prosecuted and held accountable. The same goes for the fighters and commanders of all armed groups that continue to resort to summary executions and mass murders of captured soldiers, as well as torture of prisoners.

Mr. President,

The documentation of violations and abuses of human rights law and of violations of international humanitarian law needs to continue especially now that the security situation on the ground has once again dramatically deteriorated. The growing number of sieges, the use of starvation as a method of warfare, the escalation of violence in Aleppo and Deraa, the continuing targeting of civilians, including through aerial bombardments, can lead to further atrocities for a population already victimized by the violence.

The EU remains strongly committed to accountability in Syria. All those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria must be held accountable. The EU continues to support a referral of the situation in Syria by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court.

As pointed out by the Commission itself, to truly put an end to the crimes committed in Syria and to the suffering of the Syrian population, “there can be no substitute for an all-inclusive peace process” and “respect for the choice of the Syrian population is paramount”.

For this reason, the EU has fully supported the efforts of UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura and will continue to do so. Our priorities must be advancing the political process outlined in Security Council Resolution 2254, achieving a nation-wide cessation of hostilities, and ensuring humanitarian access to all those in need. All the members of the International Syria Support Group must live up to the commitments that they took in Munich on February 12 and work to this end.

If the political talks in Geneva are to resume and to succeed, the present escalation of violence needs to stop immediately. Confidence-building measures also need to be immediately implemented, including the release of political prisoners as well as an end to attacks on civilians, to aerial bombardments and sieges of civilian areas.

Mr. President,

I would like to conclude by addressing the following question to Chair Pinheiro: do you think that the Commission – given all the difficulties it faces in getting information from inside Syria – will be able to document the grave violations of international humanitarian law and the human rights abuses that are being committed in the present military assault on Aleppo and in the be-sieged areas? What measures are you envisaging to ensure that this will be possible?

Thank you, Mr. President.

* * *

Ref: EUUN16-016EN
EU source: European Union
UN forum: UNGA
Date: 22/2/2016

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