Statement at the Special Session on Syria
The United States joins with many other nations gathered here today, to demand again an end to the Asad regime’s outrageous crimes against the people of Syria. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the heinous slaughter of innocent men, women, and children in Houla last weekend, which killed over 100 people. The facts are clear: families were summarily executed in their own homes, with the vast majority of the victims being women and children. To the world’s collective horror, United Nations observers confirmed the deaths of more than 30 children under the age of 10. These close-range murders occurred while Houla endured a vicious assault involving tanks and artillery– weapons that only the regime possesses—that resulted in numerous deaths. We hold the Syrian government fully responsible for the slaughter of innocent civilians in Houla.
The Houla massacre unambiguously illustrates the regime’s depravity and contempt for international law, and clearly illustrates its continued flagrant violations of its commitments under Security Council Resolutions 2042 and 2043 to cease violence in all its forms, including the cessation of use of heavy weapons in population centers. Even before the horrific massacre in Houla, the UN Secretary General reported to the Security Council that unacceptable levels of violence and abuses continue unabated. The violence must stop, immediate access for the COI must be granted, and this despicable regime’s terrible chapter in Syria’s history must be brought to an end.
Those who committed these atrocities must be identified and held accountable. Here, the Commission of Inquiry formed under this Council’s mandate, has an important role to play. The Syrian government must allow the Commission of Inquiry immediate and unhindered access to Syria to conduct an independent, international investigation of the Houla massacre.
Across Syria, the Syrian people bravely risk their lives daily to inform the international community about the horrendous scale of violence and suffering. No one can deny the brutal campaign of bombardment, torture, and killing that the Asad government is waging against the Syrian people. As seen by today’s special session, and the five HRC resolutions on Syria since last April, the international community is watching and will continue to condemn Asad’s government, whose brutal rule by murder and fear will ultimately come to an end.
Madame President, we must continue to call for the Syrian regime to immediately halt its attacks on innocent civilians. The Syrian people face murder at the hands of their own government simply because they demand respect for the universal human rights this Council exists to protect and advance. Let us be clear today that in every corner of the world, we stand in solidarity with the Syrian people who have taken to the streets to denounce the unimaginable violence that continues to unfold each day that Bashar al Asad remains in power.
Remarks to the Press on the United Nations Human Rights Council
Ambassador Donahoe: Thank you all for being here. As you know, the Human Rights Council met [inaudible] with the crisis in Syria for the past year. This is the fifth time, in fact, that we have called an urgent session to address the human rights violations in Syria. Four special sessions and an urgent debate. We started in April, then another one in August, December, and then we had an urgent debate in March. That number of urgent sessions speaks for itself. No government with any claim to legitimacy would ever generate such focused attention by this Council.
The Assad regime is engaged in a war on its own people. It is the duty and responsibility of this Council to speak out and do what it can to defend the humanity and basic civil rights of the Syrian people.
The May 25th massacre in Houla is the most unambiguous demonstration to date of the Syrian government’s flagrant brutality and its utter lack of legitimacy. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has highlighted the evidence of deliberate, systematic and ruthless targeting of innocent children and women in Houla as well as the Assad regime’s cynical denial of these facts.
The horrific massacre perpetrated by the regime’s thugs in Houla was a truly outrageous occurrence. This is not just another incident in the conflict. It was an absolute abomination in which of the more than 100 victims, almost half were children and a third were women, many executed at close range.
There is no gray area here or need for interpretation in this case. It was simply the cold blooded murder of more than 100 people including at least 30 children under the age of 10.
The international community and the Syrian people want justice and demand that those responsible for the unspeakable crimes be held accountable. The Human Rights Council’s action today will lead to the fulfillment of those demands. This Council serves an important role in shining a spotlight on these crimes and in creating a means to collect evidence of these horrific international crimes to ensure that justice and accountability will be done. Our message has been very clear. The reckless killing and abuse of the Syrian people must stop and the perpetrators must be identified and held accountable.
This is a moment of truth for the international community and particularly for those members of the Human Rights Council who do not support this resolution. All members of the international community must come to terms with the truth. The window of opportunity to use our collective leverage and stop the downward spiral in this conflict is closing. We are at risk of a widening regional conflict. Now is the time to come together and put pressure on the Syrian regime to stop these massacres, end the violence, and allow the Syrian people to transition to a legitimate government.