AS DELIVERED by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
Thank you, Mr. President.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since peaceful protests began in 2011. The COI’s latest report details horrifying first-hand accounts of killings; deliberate and systematic torture, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence; assault and targeted destruction of civilian property including schools and mosques; and use of children in fighting forces.
We are grateful for the COI’s diligent efforts to document violations and abuses committed by all parties to the conflict, but agree with the COI that the Assad regime bears the overwhelming responsibility. We continue to be appalled at the regime’s ongoing disregard for human life and its indiscriminate use of force and heavy weaponry in residential areas, including ballistic missiles and aerial bombing. We strongly condemn the regime’s brutality and blatant violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. We are also deeply concerned about reports of abuses by opposition-affiliated forces, and the presence of foreign forces and violent extremists who are attempting to hijack the legitimate struggle of the Syrian people.
Those responsible for human rights abuses and violations of international law must be held accountable. We appreciate the COI’s efforts to assess ways in which international and domestic accountability mechanisms might, working in tandem, provide justice for the Syrian people. And we urge the international community to think constructively about how our combined support for and expertise in transitional justice can be deployed now to support the expressed desires of the Syrian opposition for a Syrian-led accountability enterprise.
We support the COI’s recommendation that truth and reconciliation, and effective redress for, and rehabilitation of, victims will be crucial aspects of a political transition. We also support Syrian and international efforts to document evidence of atrocities committed by individuals on all sides for use in future transitional justice and accountability processes.
We agree with the COI that a political transition through negotiation, based on the principles outlined in the Geneva Communiqué, is the best solution. The United States continues to support Syrian civil society and the Syrian Opposition Coalition, which we have acknowledged as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, as they work to shape the peaceful, democratic, and inclusive future that the people of Syria deserve.
We have the following questions:
- What can the international community be doing now to support Syrian efforts to lay the groundwork for a credible and fair judicial system during the transition and after to ensure there is no “impunity gap,” as noted in your report?
- Looking forward, might the Bosnian or Kosovo hybrid tribunals—domestically led processes relying on elements of international support—offer viable models for offering international assistance to the Syrian domestic system during and after the transition as it considers questions of accountability, if the Syrians agree?