The European Union thanks the Commission of Inquiry on Syria for their report and the update to the Council. The findings of the Commission are indispensable for efforts to seek accountability for violation and abuses of international human rights and international humanitarian law committed in Syria.
We share the Commission of Inquiry’s outrage concerning the impact of the hostilities on civilians in Idlib province and surrounding areas. More than a million people have been displaced as a result of the intense hostilities, in particular at the hands of the regime and its allies. As documented by the Commission, the civilian population has been subjected to indiscriminate, widespread and systematic attacks amounting to war crimes. The deliberate targeting of civilians, medical personnel and educational and medical facilities is inexcusable. The EU also strongly condemns the Syrian regime’s continued use of arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearance and practices of property confiscation taking place in the areas it has retaken.
At the same time, the EU condemns the systematic practice by the HTS (Hay’at Tahir al Sham) a UN designated terrorist group, to unlawfully detain, torture and murder civilians living in areas under their control, acts which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, as well as recruitment and use of children in its forces .
We urge all parties to the conflict to uphold their respective obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. Accountability is of utmost importance and a foundation on which finding a sustainable, inclusive and peaceful solution to the conflict is possible. We welcome the Commission’s recommendations for all Member States to continue seeking accountability, including through ensuring effective legislation enabling the prosecution of individuals suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.
We reaffirm that the only way towards a lasting peace is through United Nations-led intra Syrian negotiations, not by military operations. While we welcome the recent resolution by the Security Council on a 90-day pause in fighting, we urge the parties to the conflict to heed the Secretary-General’s and the Special Envoy’s call for a lasting cease-fire and to fully cooperate with the Special Envoy so that the third meeting of the Constitutional Committee gets underway without further delay.
The EU continues to voice strong concern about reports of social and demographic engineering in all areas throughout Syria. We are also deeply preoccupied by mass waves of displacement, inter alia in parts of the Northeast and the Northwest. We recall the need to create conditions for a safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and IDPs (agreed in GC HRC43).
Finally, we underscore that the continued deliberate denial and obstruction of humanitarian access is a blatant violation of international humanitarian law and principles and unacceptable. On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council adopted a much-needed resolution on cross border assistance to the Syrian people. It is a matter of deep concern that the resolution authorises only one crossing point out of the two previously available to the UN. The unconstructive approach of certain members of the Security Council is all the more regrettable at a time when needs have never been greater and in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
The EU will continue to do its utmost to provide assistance to those in need in Syria. In this context we stress firmly that the EU sanctions are fully in line with all obligations under international law. There are no sanctions on humanitarian aid or on medical supplies. Our sanctions are targeting those oppressing the Syrian people, bombing health facilities and schools, and using chemical weapons.
Thank you !