Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the Report of the Syria Commission of Inquiry
The United States welcomes the report of the independent international commission of inquiry on Syria, which documents the Asad regime’s ruthless, depraved campaign against its own people. The details are appalling. Among the commission’s findings are evidence of systemic government support for the rape and torture of children. The world can now clearly see what boundaries the Asad regime is willing to cross to retain its grip on power.
The Arab League has condemned Syria’s government by seeking to impose powerful consequences for its actions. The United States welcomes these efforts and applauds all international organizations who are working towards an end to the violence. In particular, we salute the bravery of the Syrians who took great risks to contribute to the commission’s report, shedding light on this most urgent challenge to peace and human dignity.
Thank you, Madame President.
One month ago at the 17th Special Session of the Human Rights Council, the United States and other members of this body expressed our profound concern over the findings in the report of the Fact Finding Mission. We strongly condemned the serious, systematic and continuing human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, which unfortunately have intensified rather than abated since that time. The United States welcomes the prompt formation of the Commission of Inquiry mandated at the Special Session and strongly urges full cooperation by the Syrian government and all other member states.
The High Commissioner has noted that the Syrian government’s continued campaign of repression is now responsible for the deaths of over 2,600 of its own citizens. The body count rises on a daily basis. The Fact Finding Mission and international human rights observers, have found that the Syrian security and military forces are responsible for arbitrary executions and detentions, torture, and other abuse of detainees, including young children. The United States condems in the strongest possible terms the killing of Syrian human rights activist Ghiyath Mattar while in the custody of Syrian security forces. Ghiyath Mattar courageously confronted the regime’s despicable violence with peaceful protest, and he paid the ultimate price for his bravery.
Senior members of the Syrian regime who bear responsibility for safeguarding their people have betrayed that obligation. They must be accountable for the gross violations of human rights that continue. Again and again, Damascus has blamed armed insurgents for the harm causes to the thousands of citizens who have bled on the streets of Syria. Coming from a government that has denied access to independent observers, to international media, and to the experienced and objective investigators we have mandated here, these assertions have no credibility. It is time for the regime to stop trying to mask its atrocities with propaganda. The Assad regime must step aside and let Syria transition peacefully to a representative and inclusive democracy that supports and defends the universal rights of all Syrians.
President Assad’s public support for the campaign of brutal crackdowns shows that he is determined to hold on to power regardless of the price paid by his people. We call on the Syrian authorities to stop killing and torturing their people immediately, and to allow the Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry, international humanitarian agencies, and international media unrestricted access to report on the true conditions inside Syria.
The United States strongly affirms our unwavering support for the Syrian people. A legitimate government does not fear dissent, does not sow seeds of sectarianism, and does not rely on violence and intimidation to force a false dialogue. The United States stands with the Syrian people as they strive to determine their own destiny in a peaceful transition to a representative and inclusive government, and urges those who would hinder it to step aside.
Statement delivered during the Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Libya
The United States would like to thank the Commission of Inquiry for Libya for the important work it has already undertaken, even as we express our concern about impediments to its full functioning during the critical months since the Council extended its mandate. The Commission’s dedication to impartial and timely reporting on human rights violations is commendable during this sensitive time of transition.
We see a better future for Libya without a Qadhafi regime, with a new government that responds to the democratic aspirations of the Libyan people, respects their universal human rights, and adheres to Libya’s international commitments and obligations. With broad international support, and credentials at the United Nations granted this week, the Transitional National Council represents a clean break from the Qadhafi legacy. the TNC has expressed its commitment to protect and respect the rights and freedoms of the Libyan people, to respond to their legitimate aspirations for good governance, to embrace human rights principles and give a meaningful voice to the Libyan people in how they are governed. We support those goals.
The United States remains concerned by some reports of human rights abuses and violations in Libya, including the treatment of vulnerable minority groups. In a letter to the Secretary General this week, the TNC stated that it will work to ensure security and accountability according to the rule of law and in line with Libya’s human rights obligations and commitments. We have called on the TNC to live to those commitments. The TNC has facilitated visits by UNHCR, IOM, and NGOs to detention facilities to investigate reports of arbitrary detentions and abuse of Libyans and sub-Saharan African migrants. We commend the TNC for its openness to working with the international community. The TNC has called upon the UN to provide technical assistance, to allow it to protect human rights, particularly for individuals belonging to vulnerable groups, and to support transitional justice. We look forward to working with the TNC on critical human rights concerns once Libya is reinstated to the Council.
The crisis in Libya is not over, and we call on the Commission of Inquiry to continue its critical mandate. We trust that the High Commissioner recognizes the high priority that is placed on Commission of Inquiry for Libya, and will continue to support its important work through to the end of its mandate. We stand ready to work with OHCHR and other member states to ensure that funding and other bureaucratic hurdles are not permitted to stand in the way of full implementation of HRC mandates.
The United States welcomes the rapid action by the President of the Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry on the situation in Syria as called for August 23 by HRC member states. The membership of the three-member Commission was announced yesterday on the opening day of the 18th Session of the Human Rights Council. It is now essential that this team be permitted to enter Syria to begin their investigation.
The death toll from the brutal crackdown in Syria continues to rise. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the slaughter, arrest and torture of peaceful protesters by the Assad regime, which clearly has no intention of ending its violent attacks against the Syrian people.
The establishment of this COI is part of a growing consensus in the international community that the appalling behavior of the Assad regime must be brought to an end now.
I congratulate the Human Rights Council for its work to create an international independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and to make clear the world’s concern for the Syrian people. Today, the international community joined together to denounce the Syrian regime’s horrific violence. The United States worked closely with countries from every part of the world – more than 30 members of the Human Rights Council, including key Arab members — to establish this mandate.
The Commission of Inquiry will investigate all violations of international human rights law by Syrian Authorities and help the international community address the serious human rights abuses in Syria and ensure that those responsible are held to account.
There are credible reports that government forces in Syria have committed numerous gross human rights violations, including torture and summary executions in their crackdown against opposition members. The most recent attack by Syrian security forces on protesters in Homs is as deplorable as it is sadly representative of the Asad regime’s utter disregard for the Syrian people.
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the slaughter, arrest, and torture of peaceful protesters taking place in Syria. We continue to urge nations around the world to stand with the Syrian people in their demands for a government that represents the needs and will of its people and protects their universal rights. For the sake of the Syrian people, it is time for Asad to step aside and leave this transition to the Syrians themselves.
The passage today of the Human Rights Council resolution on the Human Rights Situation in Syria sends several important messages:
First, there is a very strong and growing consensus in the international community that Assad has lost legitimacy to govern and must step down.
The outcome manifests the extent to which he is now isolated.
Second, through this resolution, the international community sent a clear message to the Syrian people: We will not stand by silently as innocent civilians and peaceful protesters are slaughtered by security forces. We are working to ramp up pressure on the Syrian authorities to help ensure that the violence ends.
We have not been fooled by empty promises of reform and engagement.
Actions speak louder than words: the continuing atrocities have sent a loud and clear message to us all that Assad’s promises cannot be trusted.
The Commission of Inquiry established by the resolution will ensure that evidence of atrocities will be uncovered and those responsible will be identified and held accountable.
Today’s outcome is a victory for the Syrian people.