Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, and concluded an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arabic Republic, said that, while States had the full right to defend their countries and their citizens against terrorists, they must do so in compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law, and this had clearly not been the case in Idlib this winter and spring. All sides had committed war crimes. Children had been bombarded at schools, parents had been bombarded at markets, and the sick and injured had been bombarded at hospitals. All obstacles to humanitarian aid should be removed, including those caused unintentionally by overly cumbersome humanitarian exemption procedures.
Syria, speaking as a concerned country, noted that the report of this Commission demonstrated again its non-compliance with Council resolution 5/2 and its code of conduct, making it clear that the aim was simply to make accusations against the Syrian Government and its allies. The Commission did not take into account foreign-backed terrorism, American and Turkish aggression and their occupation of parts of the Syrian territory, and unilateral coercive measures aimed at subjecting the Syrian people to collective punishment.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the report but expressed their alarm at the suffering of the Syrian people. The adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 2533 was a relief, but it was regrettable that the Council had decided to further limit the scope of the existing mechanism. Some speakers noted that unilateral sanctions were proven to have devastating effects on populations, a finding that applied directly to the situation in Syria.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were the European Union, Norway on behalf of a group of countries, Qatar, UN Women, Liechtenstein, Germany, Estonia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China, Belgium, Japan, Saudi Arabia, France, Russian Federation, Venezuela (video message), Kuwait (video message), Australia, Italy, Spain (video message), Iran, Chile, Malta, Belarus, Jordan, Luxembourg, Brazil, Morocco, Croatia, Bahrain, Czech Republic, Iraq, Romania (video message), Netherlands, Greece, Ireland, Turkey, Egypt, Slovenia, United Arab Emirates (video message), Switzerland, Israel, Georgia, Albania, United Kingdom and Cuba.
The following civil society organizations also took the floor : World Vision International, World Jewish Congress, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Ingenieurs du Monde, United Nations Watch, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, Union of Arab Jurists, and Maat for Peace – Development and Human Rights Association.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive debate with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. The interactive dialogue started in a previous meeting and a summary can be seen here .
In the discussion, speakers welcomed the appointment of the new Special Rapporteur and urged the Government of Myanmar to put an end to all human rights violations. What specific measures must the Government of Myanmar take to guarantee the right to vote of all displaced persons? Speakers expressed concern about the continuation of indiscriminate attacks, potential destruction of evidence, and the apparent steady intensification of the plight of the Rohingya.
In his concluding remarks, Thomas Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, stated that with regards to the election, it had to be free, fair, credible and transparent. The will of the people had to be reflected, but because the Rohingya did not have the right to vote, the election could not by definition reflect the will of the people. It was unclear if Myanmar was striving towards democracy, since the civil society space was shrinking in the run-up to the election.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Spain (video message), Belarus, Bangladesh, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Denmark, Netherlands, Viet Nam, Nepal, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Norway, Cambodia, and Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
The following civil society organizations also took the floor : Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Save the Children International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, International Federation For Human Rights League, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Article 19 – International Centre Against Censorship, International Commission of Jurists, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and Amnesty International.
Speaking in right of reply were Lebanon, Iran, China and Israel.
The Council will next meet on Wednesday, 15 July at 10 a.m. to hold the annual thematic panel discussion on technical cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights, followed by the interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on Venezuela.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar started in a previous meeting and a summary can be seen here.
Discussion
Speakers welcomed the appointment of the new Special Rapporteur and urged the Government of Myanmar to put an end to all human rights violations. What specific measures must the Government of Myanmar take to guarantee the right to vote of all displaced persons? Speakers expressed concern about the continuation of indiscriminate attacks, potential destruction of evidence and the apparent steady intensification of the plight of the Rohingya. Other speakers stated that the 14 mandates that singled out specific countries had an inherent destructive nature, noting that these countries were likely to be part of the developing world. The situation in Cox Bazar was extremely concerning, especially in light of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing instances of climate change related disasters in the area. Speakers urged Myanmar to implement all Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations and reiterated the existing call to all stakeholders in Myanmar to take action to combat disinformation and hate speech online. The human rights violations committed in Rakhine state may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Some speakers emphasised the importance of genuine dialogue, cooperation and trust building, calling on States to support Myanmar in its efforts to overcome difficulties in building towards sustainable development and achieving universal human rights. The ongoing armed conflict in Rakhine state had exacerbated the vulnerabilities of Rohingya refugees. Speakers noted that Myanmar extending its support to camps for internally displaced persons was a positive step, yet much more needed to be done. Restrictions on access to information and the Internet across Myanmar, and specifically to the Rohingya, were concerning to many speakers, who noted that this issue was critical in light of the upcoming election and the COVID-19 pandemic. The six-fold increase of killing and maiming of children during the first quarter of this year in central Rakhine state alone was decried by speakers. In the first six months of 2020, 608 armed clashes or attacks against civilians had occurred in 10 of the 14 states and regions, resulting in yet more human rights violations. The impunity of the Myanmar military was at the core of the pervasiveness of human rights violations and continuing repression of minorities, according to some speakers.
Concluding Remarks
THOMAS ANDREWS, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that with regards to the election, it had to be free, fair, credible and transparent. The will of the people had to be reflected, but because the Rohingya did not have the right to vote, the election could not by definition reflect the will of the people. It was unclear if Myanmar was striving towards democracy, since the civil society space was shrinking in the run-up to the election. At the same time, the Special Rapporteur was pleased that Myanmar welcomed international observers. Horrifying reports of continued violence were coming in from Rakhine state, creating a humanitarian crisis there. It was important not to forget the plight of over one million Rohingya refugees living in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, especially because no conditions for their repatriation to Myanmar were being created. It was absolutely essential to hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable. The engagement of the members of this Council with the mandate, with the Government of Myanmar, with other States, as well as the private sector and civil society, was the most effective method of protecting the human rights of the people of Myanmar.
Interactive Dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria
The Council has before it the **Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic **( A/HRC/44/61 ).
The Council has before it Resolution 43/28 on**Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic **(A/HRC/RES/43/28).
Presentation by the Chairperson of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria
PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Chairperson of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arabic Republic , said that in Idlib, millions of civilians lived largely under the control of the terrorist group Haya’t Tahrir al-Sham. States had the full right to defend their countries and their citizens against terrorists, but they must do so in compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. That was clearly not the case in Idlib this winter and spring. All sides had committed war crimes. Children had been bombarded at schools, parents had been bombarded at markets, and the sick and injured had been bombarded at hospitals. The widespread aerial bombardments in parts of southern Idlib and western Aleppo had left civilians with no choice but to flee. Nearly one million people had been displaced over only three months, as they fled a campaign of bombardment which in part may have entailed crimes against humanity. Taking advantage of the displacement, Haya’t Tahrir al-Sham had pillaged vacated homes. As battles waged, they detained, tortured, and executed civilians.
Despite the risks involved, some of those displaced during the hostilities were returning, even to homes in ruins. The Security Council had just done the bare minimum, by reauthorizing the cross-border aid operation, allowing one crossing to be used for one year. It must do more. Aid must flow on the basis of need and not of politics. Anything else was a shameful failure, which could result in further and entirely unnecessary loss of life. Pandemics knew no borders, nor should life-saving aid. Those in unlawful detention must be released without delay, as should all children, elderly, disabled and infirm persons. All obstacles to humanitarian aid should be removed, including those caused unintentionally by overly cumbersome humanitarian exemption procedures. The Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arabic Republic reiterated the calls made by Secretary-General Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet to ease or waive sectoral sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support. Syrian victims and survivors needed and deserved justice, as defined by and for themselves, and an end to the rampant impunity.
Statement by Concerned Country
Syria, speaking as a concerned country, noted that the report of this Commission demonstrated again its non-compliance with Council resolution 5/2 and its code of conduct, making it clear that the aim was simply to make accusations against the Syrian Government and its allies. The Commission did not take into account foreign-backed terrorism, American and Turkish aggression and their occupation of parts of the Syrian territory, and unilateral coercive measures aimed at subjecting the Syrian people to collective punishment. The delegation reiterated its rejection of the Commission’s reports and its methods of work, which were based on sources of information provided by non-neutral parties. The report came in response to a resolution adopted on 6/22/2020, and was issued as an official document on 2/7/2020 ; how had the Commission managed to submit a report claiming that it met the criteria of independent and objective investigation within less than 10 days? Syria asserted that military operations in Idlib and other Syrian areas were aimed at combatting terrorism and liberating the people of those areas from the domination of organizations classified by the Security Council as terrorist entities linked to ISIS and Al-Qaida. Thousands of Syrians had returned to their cities and areas liberated from terrorism under the protection of the Syrian armed forces.
Discussion
Speakers welcomed the report, but expressed their alarm at the suffering of the Syrian people. The adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 2533 was a relief, but it was regrettable that the Council had decided to further limit the scope of the existing mechanism. Some speakers condemned the systematic practice by the Haya’t Tahrir al-Sham, a United Nations designated terrorist group, to unlawfully detain, torture and murder civilians living in areas under its control, acts which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, as well as the recruitment and use of children in its forces. Speakers condemned the action of government forces and their allies in Idlib that had led to the displacement of over 1 million Syrians, and urged a political solution. The use of chemical weapons, and indiscriminate and deliberate attacks against schools, hospitals and other protected objects, were clearly a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. Other speakers emphasised the threat posed by terrorism, and denounced politicisation, selectivity and double standards, as well as the practice of using human rights as a tool to pressure countries and interfere in their internal affairs. The unilateral coercive measures imposed on the Syrian people violated their human rights.
Some speakers noted that the biased and politicised nature of the Commission of Inquiry had resulted in a work environment that was unbalanced and not objective, compounded by the report’s remote monitoring methodology. Humanitarian assistance in Syria must be based on the United Nations General Assembly resolution 46/182. The Syrian crisis was also a child’s rights protection crisis, with increasing rates of child marriage in north-west Syria. This was not an inevitability of conflict, it was rather a failure to protect children from all stakeholders. Many hospitals, schools and other facilities had been bombed or shut down, as civilians suffered the most from the war, with all parties to the conflict discriminating against and targeting ethnic and religious minorities. Speakers noted that unilateral sanctions were proven to have devastating effects on populations, a finding that applied directly to the situation in Syria. In camps, people died from diseases that could have been avoided just by providing some fresh air and sunlight. Speakers asked the Council to imagine the potential deadly effects of COVID-19 in these camps. Why had the Council refused to convene a single urgent debate to address the profound suffering of the Syrian people?
Concluding Remarks
HANNY MEGALLY, Member of the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arabic Republic, stated that a number of Member States had expressed concerns about the situation of Idlib, and the Commission had accordingly prepared in advance to be able to address the situation in that region in upcoming reports. While it was still very challenging for the Commission to discharge its mandate without access, it had been doing so for nine years, and therefore had had time to learn how to function despite the lack of access. COVID-19 spread in places of detention, it would also spread across the country, causing problems not only to Syria but also in neighbouring countries. Seventy per cent of health workers had left the country. This was not a time for anyone to be attacking hospitals.
KAREN KONING ABUZAYD, Member of the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arabic Republic, drew attention to the issue of domestic violence and the negative actions of roaming groups that stole furniture and abused women and children. She pointed out that the report provided responses to several questions that had been asked today. She thanked all those present.

Source: UN Human Rights Council

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