Thank you, Madame President.
The United States thanks the Commission of Inquiry for its continued diligent and critical work during the past year responding to the grave and escalating situation in Syria. This Council must and will renew the mandate of the COI so it can continue to perform its unique role. The United States strongly urges all States to support the extension of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and once again calls for the Commission to be granted access to Syria. The United States also aligns itself with the joint statement read by Turkey.
Anyone who has watched the behavior of the Assad regime over the past months, while horrified, is not surprised by the COI’s findings: Reasonable grounds exist to believe that Government forces and the Shabbiha have committed the crimes against humanity, war crimes and gross violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including unlawful killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, indiscriminate attack, pillaging and destruction of property.
The COI has determined that Government forces and Shabbiha members, acting in concert, were responsible for the massacre in Al-Houla, killing dozens of women and children.
The Assad regime has escalated its attacks on the people of Syria even further, with numerous deliberate bombardments of civilians and a continued campaign of targeted killings, like the horrific massacre in Daraya. Bashar al-Assad and those who stand by him are now responsible for the deaths of more than 20,000 Syrians and the wounding of tens of thousands more. They have forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee for their lives. These crimes against the Syrian people suggest a deliberate state policy of collective punishment and must be brought to an end.
We applaud the COI for continuing to document the names of individuals responsible for these violations and crimes. We encourage the COI and civil society groups like the Syria Justice and Accountability Center to continue their documentation efforts so that the individuals responsible for these violations and crimes will be held accountable.
We urge all States to work toward a peaceful political transition that respects the dignity, aspirations, and universal human rights of the Syrian people. And we urge states who share this goal to join us in pressing for effective international measures to compel the Assad regime to implement such a transition, and to cease their obstructive behavior.
We have two questions for the Commission of Inquiry. What if any information have you been able to gather regarding the whereabouts of staff of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, the only Syrian civil society organization that has been able to obtain ECOSOC status, and its executive director, Mazen Darwish? Finally, have you made progress with the Syrian government on the Commission’s long-standing request for access to interview victims inside of Syria?