Delegation of the European Union to the
UN and other international organisations in Geneva

HRC 41 - EU General Comment: The Human Rights Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

Geneva, 12/07/2019 - 15:20, UNIQUE ID: 190712_9
Statements on behalf of the EU

41st Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council Geneva, 24 June – 12 July 2019 EU General Comment: The Human Rights Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

Mr. President,

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

The EU would like to express its support for the resolution on the human rights situation in Syria presented to the Council today.

The resolution reflects the serious surge in violence in North West Syria, and the dire situation of civilians there, in particular women and children. The text reflects continued reports of violence elsewhere in Syria, including Sexual and Gender Based Violence and torture against detained persons. It refers to the very high numbers of missing persons, the inhuman treatment of the displaced, and calls for a continued focus on the human rights and humanitarian needs of those living in and around Syria. The EU strongly condemns the indiscriminate attacks on civilians, hospitals and schools, and reaffirms its firm determination to hold accountable those who violate International Humanitarian Law.

We welcome the Core Group’s efforts to keep the situation in Syria high on the HRC agenda through this updated text.

The EU reiterates its full commitment to the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Syria as well as the human rights of all its citizens. 

We expect that all the guarantors of the Astana process, will refrain from unilateral military action which will cause harm to civilians and civilian objects, and that they will respect all their obligations and responsibilities

The EU shares the core group’s concerns about intense levels of violence, in particular the Syrian and Russian airstrikes and shelling, which continue to occur in North Hama and Idlib. This has caused the death of almost 500 civilians, the destruction of schools and health facilities, thereby affecting an already extremely vulnerable population after eight years of war, and which has led to the displacement of over 300,000 people in the last three months alone. 

Similarly, the EU welcomes the resolution’s focus on the plight of the detained, missing, and those forcibly disappeared. We agree with the Commission of Inquiry that it is intolerable that the fate of tens of thousands remains unknown. We are pleased that the resolution welcomes UNSC resolution 2474, an initiative of the Kuwaiti presidency of the Security Council, which calls on states to take all appropriate measures to actively search for missing persons, in particular children, and to put in place appropriate channels of response and communications with their families.  We also strongly support the efforts of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General in seeking to prioritise this issue, and call for immediate and unilateral steps to be taken by all parties, primarily the Syrian authorities to release those arbitrarily detained  and provide information to families about those that remain in detention, and those who are missing.

Finally, the EU appreciates the new reference in the text that condemns the use of starvation of civilians as a weapon of war, a practice which has been referred to repeatedly by the COI in their reports. The EU urges the Syrian regime to comply with international humanitarian law and desist from blocking the delivery of vital foodstuffs, health items and other essential supplies and to comply with Security Council resolution 2147.

As the chair of the COI reiterated during his recent oral update to this Council: The violent conflict in Syria is not over, nor are its devastating effects on the Syrian people. The EU remains committed to working with others in the international community to bring an end to the conflict in Syria and to ensure accountability for the violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law committed. In this context, the EU reiterates its appreciation for the vital work of the Commission of Inquiry and the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism.

In conclusion, we repeat our call to all parties, in particular Syria and Russia, to restore an immediate cease-fire and demand that all parties abide by it, ensuring the protection of and unhindered humanitarian assistance to the civilian population. The time to create space for the start of a genuine Syrian political process towards the inclusive and democratic country is long overdue. To that end, the EU reiterates its full support to UN-led efforts towards a political settlement in line with UNSCR 2254, but there can be no hope of progress while violence continues. Only a credible, negotiated political solution can end the Syria crisis. Syrians deserve sustainable security and stability. 

Consequently, the EU will vote in favour of draft resolution L. 25 and urges all members of the Council to do the same.

I thank you.

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