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The human rights situation in Syria compels us to keep it under the scrutiny of this Council, as widespread human rights violations and abuses and IHL violations continue unabated in the Syrian Arab Republic. It also compels us to have a clear and firm response of this Council, as countless Syrians, NGOs, civil society representatives and women human rights defenders demand that their immediate, legitimate concerns be reflected in the discussions here.
To meet these demands, the EU continues to firmly support the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and emphasises the need for its work to continue and for its members to be granted access to Syria. We thank the Commission for its report. The findings of the CoI are relevant and indispensable for all efforts seeking accountability. Equally important in this regard is the work of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, whose work we fully support.
The EU reiterates its gravest concern with the persistent patterns of human rights violations and abuses and IHL violations, perpetrated by all parties to the conflict, but predominantly by the Syrian regime and its allies. All those responsible must be held accountable through all available criminal justice mechanisms. Justice for the victims and their families must remain a priority. The EU also voices strong concern about reports of social and demographic engineering in areas throughout Syria.
The regime must answer the demands of thousands of Syrian families for the release of those arbitrarily detained and for clarifying the fate of the missing. Victims and survivors continue to give terrible accounts of torture, abuse and ill treatment of those expressing political dissent.
We are concerned with the ample account of sexual and gender based violence reported by the Commission of Inquiry. We also received disturbing evidence of hardships for women, widows and household caretakers, who face increasing difficulties in accessing services and legal rights, providing for the families or registering their children. We would like to ask the Commission how the Council and the OHCHR can effectively address the "gendered harms" you mention on the report.
Particularly worrisome is the situation in North West Syria, where attacks by government forces and their allies have generated disastrous humanitarian consequences for three million civilians, more than a million of whom are children. Sharp escalation of hostilities in Southern Idleb and Northern Hama has forced some 600,000 men, women and children to flee, many of them multiple times. Thousands are left to subsist in overcrowded shelters or abandoned buildings without basic services. The EU supports the call from the United Nations and humanitarian partners to have full, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to all people who need assistance. We also urge the parties to respect and uphold the ceasefire in Idlib in order to prevent further death and injury among civilians.
According to the UN, since the end of April, there have been at least 43 attacks on healthcare reported, affecting health facilities and ambulances, in Hama, Idleb and in Aleppo. At least 17 health workers and patients have been killed. 87 educational facilities, 29 water stations, and 7 markets have all been impacted by fighting since April. We condemn in the strongest terms ongoing and systematic attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including healthcare and educational facilities. As pointed out in the report of the CoI, the targeting of medical facilities may amount to war crimes. The EU welcomes the decision of the Secretary General to establish a Board on Inquiry to investigate the "destruction of or damage to facilities on the deconfliction list and U.N.-supported facilities in the NW Syria since September 2018". We expect all parties concerned to cooperate with the Board.
As bad as the situation is in areas currently under assault by the regime and its allies, we should not lose sight of the horrendous conditions in areas previously recaptured by the regime. As the regime seeks to consolidate its power, the CoI points to reports of arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and torture, amongst other. This serves as a reminder that violations will persist, absent a negotiated end to the conflict and genuine political reforms that address the grievances that originally caused the conflict.
Continued human rights violations and abuses, IHL violations and the lack of a nationwide ceasefire are dangerously undermining UN efforts to revive the political process. The UN Special Envoy has our full support in advancing towards a political resolution of the conflict on the basis of UNSCR 2254 and the Geneva Communiqué.