Oral intervention on Syria at the UN Human Rights Council 37th Session

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program, United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies delivered an oral statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council 37th session held in Geneva in March, deteriorating situation in Eastern Ghouta. CIHRS expressed concern with regards to the 400,000 residents of Eastern Ghouta who are besieged, denied basic humanitarian access, and constantly targeted by heavy shillings and indiscriminate attacks since 2013.  

United Nations Human Rights Council:  37th Session
Oral Intervention- Item 4 – Interactive Dialogue- Commission of Inquiry on Syria
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
13 March, 2018
Delivered by:  Jeremie Smith

Mr. President,

CIHRS welcomes the emergency debate concerning the deteriorating situation in Eastern Ghouta that occurred this session.  Almost 674 civilians have been killed in this area of the suburbs of Damascus in less than 2 weeks from indiscriminate attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies. The 400,000 residents of Eastern Ghouta have been besieged, denied basic humanitarian access, and constantly targeted by heavy shillings and indiscriminate attacks. In addition, evidence shows that chemical and other prohibited weapons have been used in Eastern Ghouta and other areas in Syria such as in the suburbs of Idlib.

Syrian government forces and its allies are so far unwilling to abide by their legal obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as well as all relevant resolutions and decisions of the UN. Recent events are further evidence that there can be no peace or end to the bloodshed and crimes in Syria without ending impunity. Peace efforts will almost certainly yield no tangible or sustainable results while the parties sitting at the table enjoy impunity for their unrelenting targeting of innocent lives.

CIHRS welcomes the latest Council resolution's request for the CoI to investigate events taking place in Ghouta. However, the time has long passed for investigations and accountability to take centre stage at this body.  The recurrent targeting of civilians, civilian infrastructure, including by using chemical and other prohibited weapons by the Syrian government is undeniable. There can be no more delay in taking action to bring the perpetrators to justice.

CIHRS welcomes the French initiative backed by thirty States to create an information-sharing network to bring perpetrators of chemical weapon attacks to justice. CIHRS further calls on France and supporting States to rally support around this initiative at this Council and the UN General Assembly, and work to bring the Security Council paralysis on accountability for Syrian crimes to an end.

 Once again, the international community is called upon to uphold its responsibility and meaningfully cooperate to bring an end to the horrors in Syria. We call upon the Council to create a specialized resolution on accountability for Syria that provides recommendations for States to increase and improve the use of national justice systems for investigating and prosecuting alleged crimes in Syria based on universal jurisdiction and other relevant domestic legal standards. Such a mechanism would complement and assist the International Independent Investigative Mechanism on Syria created by the General Assembly.   We would also like to ask the Commission of Inquiry on what actions they recommend this Council to take in order to further support accountability for crimes committed in Syria?

Thank you Mr. President.

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