The United States extends our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during recent protests in Sana’a. We have long condemned the use of violence during this period of upheaval and reject any actions that undermine productive efforts underway to achieve a peaceful political resolution to the current crisis in Yemen. We call upon all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from further violence. We urge a prompt, impartial investigation into the events that led to the recent violence.
The United States continues to support the Yemeni people’s aspirations for a peaceful and orderly transition that is responsive to their aspirations for peace, reconciliation, prosperity, and security. A political solution is the best way to avoid further bloodshed. We remain hopeful that an agreement will be reached that leads to the expeditious signing of the GCC political transition initiative.
Statement delivered during the Interactive Dialogue with the OHCHR Mission to Yemen
The United States would like to thank the Office of the High Commissioner for its work, including its visit to Yemen. The High Commissioner’s report calls attention to many important human rights concerns that have developed in Yemen.
The United States remains concerned by recent human rights violations committed in Yemen, particularly the excessive force used against peaceful protesters and civilians.
The United States acknowledges the Office of the High Commissioner’s recommendations, as outlined in this report, particularly calls to end attacks against peaceful protesters and other civilians, as well as to take steps to ensure the protection of vulnerable populations, such as displaced persons, and peaceful demonstrators. In addition, the United States strongly supports the High Commissioner’s call on the international community to urge all Yemeni parties to refrain from the use of violence.
Today’s discussion on Yemen comes against the backdrop of increasingly disturbing reports of additional violence. According to news reports from Saana, yesterday government forces opened fire with anti-aircraft guns and automatic weapons on thousands of protestors. The United States condemns the use of excessive force against peaceful protestors and civilians in Yemen.
Last week President Saleh delegated to the vice president the authority to bring to an end the political crisis. We urge vice president Hadi to take immediate action to implement the transition and bring an end to the bloodshed. The United States believes that now is the time for an immediate, peaceful and orderly transition that meets the aspirations of the Yemeni people and bring those responsible for crimes committed against peaceful protestors and other civilians to justice.
Thank You Madame President.
Remarks delivered during a panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests
Thank you, Madame President.
The United States is deeply concerned about violent repression of peaceful protests in a number of countries around the world. The fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association are enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The violent repression of peaceful protests is a clear violation of those human rights, and those responsible for such violations must be held accountable.
Over the past several months, as we have seen hundreds of thousands of people protest peacefully in various countries – particularly across the Middle East and North Africa – the United States has consistently opposed the use of violence against peaceful protesters and supported the fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and the right to participate in the affairs of the state. We have strongly condemned the killing, torture, arbitrary detention, and abuse of peaceful protestors. And we have made clear our view that people’s legitimate demands and aspirations must be met by positive engagement from governments in the form of meaningful political and economic reforms.
In Syria, we are witnessing a brutal and sustained onslaught against the Syrian people, who have bravely demanded reforms by protesting peacefully in the face of tanks and gunfire. Their courageous exercise of their universal rights has exposed the Asad regime’s flagrant violations of human rights and disregard for the dignity of Syrians. Though this Council has mandated a fact finding mission and an independent commission of inquiry, the Asad regime continues to grossly violate the universal rights of its citizens. We must ensure that this Council’s mandates are fully implemented and supported, and that all means of leverage are applied to help ensure that governments like the Asad regime cease their acts of repression and are held to account for their human rights violations.
In addition to Syria, a number of other states, including Iran, Belarus, China, and Burma, regularly repress peaceful protests. Such cases of systematic repression of peaceful protests must also be addressed.
We encourage the Special Rapporteurs to focus on urgent situations, like Syria, as well as persistent violators of the rights of peaceful protesters. We urge this Council to take decisive and principled action to promote and protect the rights of peaceful protesters and call on all countries to respect the human rights of their citizens.
Thank you, Madame President.
Spokesperson Nuland Offers Condolences on the Killing of Syrian Human Rights Activist Ghiyath Mattar
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the killing of Syrian human rights activist Ghiyath Mattar while in the custody of Syrian Security Forces. We offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends as they mourn their loss. Ghiyath, along with leading activist Yahya Sharbaji and a number of other human rights activists committed to non-violent resistance, was detained on September 6. Ghiyath Mattar’s courage in the face of the Asad regime’s brutal repression is well known in his home of Daraya and across Syria. His brave commitment to confronting the regime’s despicable violence with peaceful protest serves as an example for the Syrian people and for all those who suffer under the yoke of oppression.
We stand with the Syrian people in their resistance to tyranny. We call on the Asad regime to immediately cease all violence against the Syrian people and release all political prisoners. We again call on Asad to step aside and allow the Syrian people to embark upon the democratic transformation they demand.
The Syrian government’s targeted, brutal attack on Ali Farzat, the most popular political cartoonist in the country and a long-time human rights advocate, is deplorable. The regime’s thugs focused their attention on Ferzat’s hands, beating them furiously and breaking one of them – a clear message that he should stop drawing. He was then reportedly dumped on the side of a road in Damascus, where passers-by stopped and took him to a Damascus hospital.
Many other moderate activists who oppose violence have been jailed for speaking out against the regime, including Walid al-Buni, Nawaf Basheer, Georges Sabra, Mohammed Ghaliyoun, and Abdullah al-Khalil. Some have been held for months incommunicado.
While making empty promises about dialogue with the Syrian people, the Assad regime continues to carry out brutal attacks against peaceful Syrians trying to exercise their universal right to free expression. We demand that the Assad regime immediately stop its campaign of terror through torture, illegal imprisonment, and murder.
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.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. I just completed a call with my National Security Council on the situation in Libya. And earlier today I spoke to Prime Minister Cameron about the extraordinary events taking place there.
The situation is still very fluid. There remains a degree of uncertainty and there are still regime elements who pose a threat. But this much is clear: The Qaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.
In just six months, the 42-year reign of Muammar Qaddafi has unraveled. Earlier this year, we were inspired by the peaceful protests that broke out across Libya. This basic and joyful longing for human freedom echoed the voices that we had heard all across the region, from Tunis to Cairo. In the face of these protests, the Qaddafi regime responded with brutal crackdowns. Civilians were murdered in the streets. A campaign of violence was launched against the Libyan people. Qaddafi threatened to hunt peaceful protestors down like rats. As his forces advanced across the country, there existed the potential for wholesale massacres of innocent civilians.
In the face of this aggression, the international community took action. The United States helped shape a U.N. Security Council resolution that mandated the protection of Libyan civilians. An unprecedented coalition was formed that included the United States, our NATO partners and Arab nations. And in March, the international community launched a military operation to save lives and stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks.
In the early days of this intervention the United States provided the bulk of the firepower, and then our friends and allies stepped forward. The Transitional National Council established itself as a credible representative of the Libyan people. And the United States, together with our European allies and friends across the region, recognized the TNC as the legitimate governing authority in Libya.
Qaddafi was cut off from arms and cash, and his forces were steadily degraded. From Benghazi to Misrata to the western mountains, the Libyan opposition courageously confronted the regime, and the tide turned in their favor.
Over the last several days, the situation in Libya has reached a tipping point as the opposition increased its coordination from east to west, took town after town, and the people of Tripoli rose up to claim their freedom.
For over four decades, the Libyan people have lived under the rule of a tyrant who denied them their most basic human rights. Now, the celebrations that we’ve seen in the streets of Libya shows that the pursuit of human dignity is far stronger than any dictator. I want to emphasize that this is not over yet. As the regime collapses, there is still fierce fighting in some areas, and we have reports of regime elements threatening to continue fighting.
Although it’s clear that Qaddafi’s rule is over, he still has the opportunity to reduce further bloodshed by explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya and calling for those forces that continue to fight to lay down their arms for the sake of Libya.
As we move forward from this pivotal phase, the opposition should continue to take important steps to bring about a transition that is peaceful, inclusive and just. As the leadership of the TNC has made clear, the rights of all Libyans must be respected. True justice will not come from reprisals and violence; it will come from reconciliation and a Libya that allows its citizens to determine their own destiny.
In that effort, the United States will be a friend and a partner. We will join with allies and partners to continue the work of safeguarding the people of Libya. As remaining regime elements menace parts of the country, I’ve directed my team to be in close contact with NATO as well as the United Nations to determine other steps that we can take. To deal with the humanitarian impact, we’re working to ensure that critical supplies reach those in need, particularly those who have been wounded.
Secretary Clinton spoke today with her counterparts from leading nations of the coalition on all these matters. And I’ve directed Ambassador Susan Rice to request that the U.N. Secretary General use next month’s general assembly to support this important transition.
For many months, the TNC has been working with the international community to prepare for a post-Qaddafi Libya. As those efforts proceed, our diplomats will work with the TNC as they ensure that the institutions of the Libyan state are protected, and we will support them with the assets of the Qaddafi regime that were frozen earlier this year. Above all, we will call for an inclusive transition that leads to a democratic Libya.
As we move forward, we should also recognize the extraordinary work that has already been done. To the American people, these events have particular resonance. Qaddafi’s regime has murdered scores of American citizens in acts of terror in the past. Today we remember the lives of those who were taken in those acts of terror and stand in solidarity with their families. We also pay tribute to Admiral Sam Locklear and all of the men and women in uniform who have saved so many lives over the last several months, including our brave pilots that have executed their mission with skill and extraordinary bravery. And all of this was done without putting a single U.S. troop on the ground.
To our friends and allies, the Libyan intervention demonstrates what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one — although the efforts in Libya are not yet over. NATO has once more proven that it is the most capable alliance in the world and that its strength comes from both its firepower and the power of our democratic ideals. And the Arab members of our coalition have stepped up and shown what can be achieved when we act together as equal partners. Their actions send a powerful message about the unity of our effort and our support for the future of Libya.
Finally, the Libyan people: Your courage and character have been unbreakable in the face of a tyrant. An ocean divides us, but we are joined in the basic human longing for freedom, for justice and for dignity. Your revolution is your own, and your sacrifices have been extraordinary. Now, the Libya that you deserve is within your reach. Going forward, we will stay in close coordination with the TNC to support that outcome. And though there will be huge challenges ahead, the extraordinary events in Libya remind us that fear can give way to hope and that the power of people striving for freedom can bring about a brighter day.
Thank you very much.
Ambassador Donahoe: We are here today because the Human Rights Council is going to hold an urgent session on the human rights crisis in Syria. As you know, this is the second time we have been required to hold an exceptional session about the human rights situation in Syria in just the last few months.
I would like to make three quick points. One is about the human rights situation; second about the emerging international consensus on the loss of legitimacy of the Assad regime; and third, what do we expect as the outcome of today.
On the human rights situation, everyone knows that the human rights crisis has deteriorated significantly in the last few weeks. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has come out and indicated that there are credible allegations of systematic and widespread human rights violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.
The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children in Armed Conflict has let us know there are credible allegations of torture of children.
We have credible allegations that Assad has used tanks. We have documentary evidence that they’ve used tanks, machine guns, grenades and snipers against peaceful protesters, human rights defenders, et cetera. Innocent civilians are being massacred.
I don’t think there’s any doubt in the mind of anyone that the situation has deteriorated significantly.
Second, we see an emerging consensus in the international community. There’s growing unity and resolve that Assad must go. He’s lost the legitimacy to rule the Syrian people. This special session that we are about to hold was called for by a strong majority of council members, well above the number we needed to call a special session.
Importantly, we have the support of four Arab neighbors of Syria — Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.
Secondly, as you all know, the Arab League has spoken out, the OIC has spoken out, the EU has spoken out to get Assad to stop the violence, and our President, President Obama, has asked Assad to step down and allow the Syrian people to move toward a peaceful future.
It is clear that Assad is isolated and I think today’s session will underscore that point.
What do we expect as an outcome? The purpose of today’s session is to increase pressure on the Assad regime, to get Assad to step down, and to allow the Syrian people to move forward.
The specific outcome we hope for is the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate facts on the ground in Syria and to bring the Syrian authorities who are responsible for the atrocities to account.
We believe the establishment of a COI is the gold standard in the human rights world and we think this will send a strong message to the Assad regime that the allegations against them are very serious.
With that, I’ll take a couple of questions.
Question: I’d like to have your reaction on what is happening [in Libya] yesterday and if it will reflect on this session today on Syria.
Ambassador Donahoe: The first comment is that every situation is different, and I do not want to draw direct conclusions about the situation in Syria from what has happened in Libya.
That said, I will say the indications overnight are somewhat hopeful about the situation in Libya. President Obama has recognized the TNC (Transitional National Council) as the legitimate authority in Libya. He has expressed hope that the TNC will continue to demonstrate leadership in moving the Libyan people to a democratic future.
Last, I will say, I have to comment that we did in February of this year hold a comparable special session on the crisis in Libya where we also established a Commission of Inquiry, and that Commission of Inquiry was able to enter Libya and to document atrocities by the Gadhafi regime. So in that sense it is relevant.
Question: What about the latest developments, your commentary about the latest developments of the situation in Libya with Gadhafi that is practically unchaining his tanks against Tripoli population?
Ambassador Donahoe: Could you repeat that question?
Question: What is your commentary about the latest developments of the situation in Libya, because Gadhafi is probably going down, but now is unchaining his tanks against the population as many agencies reported.
Ambassador Donahoe: First off the facts on the ground in Libya are changing moment by moment and I do not want to get ahead of the story. The indications we have are that there is the prospect that it’s moving in a positive direction. However, Gadhafi has made manifest his brutality against his people for the last number of months, so we cannot let our guard down and assume that that’s over.
Question: Does the U.S. support the call for the Security Council on Syria, the Security Council to seize the ICC, to refer the matter of Syria to the ICC?
Ambassador Donahoe: First off, the United States absolutely supports accountability for the Syrian atrocities against the Syrian people. That’s the first thing. We would support either having that accountability take place in institutions in a new democratic Syria if possible, or in the appropriate international bodies.
I will say that today at the Human Rights Council we are not authorized to call for a move to the ICC. However, as it moves to the Security Council I am sure that everyone will take up the allegations very seriously.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. For months, the world has borne witness to the Asad regime’s contempt for its own people. In peaceful demonstrations across the nation, Syrians are demanding their universal human rights. The regime has answered their demands with empty promises and horrific violence, torturing opposition leaders, laying siege to cities, slaughtering thousands of unarmed civilians, including children.
The Asad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the world and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.
This morning, President Obama called on Asad to step aside and announced the strongest set of sanctions to date targeting the Syrian Government. These sanctions include the energy sector to increase pressure on the regime. The transition to democracy in Syria has begun, and it’s time for Asad to get out of the way.
As President Obama said this morning, no outside power can or should impose on this transition. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders in a democratic system based on the rule of law and dedicated to protecting the rights of all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sect, or gender.
We understand the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle, and we respect their wishes. At the same time, we will do our part to support their aspirations for a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive. And we will stand up for their universal rights and dignity by pressuring the regime and Asad personally to get out of the way of this transition.
All along, as we have worked to expand the circle of global condemnation, we have backed up our words with actions. As I’ve repeatedly said, it does take both words and actions to produce results. Since the unrest began, we have imposed strong financial sanctions on Asad and dozens of his cronies. We have sanctioned the Commercial Bank of Syria for supporting the regime’s illicit nuclear proliferation activities. And we have led multilateral efforts to isolate the regime, from keeping them off the Human Rights Council, to achieving a strong presidential statement of condemnation at the UN Security Council.
The steps that President Obama announced this morning will further tighten the circle of isolation around the regime. His executive order immediately freezes all assets of the Government of Syria that are subject to American jurisdiction and prohibits American citizens from engaging in any transactions with the Government of Syria or investing in that country. These actions strike at the heart of the regime by banning American imports of Syrian petroleum and petroleum products and prohibiting Americans from dealing in these products.
And as we increase pressure on the Asad regime to disrupt its ability to finance its campaign of violence, we will take steps to mitigate any unintended effects of the sanctions on the Syrian people. We will also continue to work with the international community, because if the Syrian people are to achieve their goals, other nations will have to provide support and take actions as well.
In just the past two weeks, many of Syria’s own neighbors and partners in the region have joined the chorus of condemnation. We expect that they and other members of the international community will amplify the steps we are taking both through their words and their actions.
We are heartened that, later today, the UN Security Council will meet again to discuss this ongoing threat to international peace and stability. We are also working to schedule a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council that will examine the regime’s widespread abuses. Earlier this week, I explained how the United States has been engaged in a relentless and systematic effort with the international community, pursuing a set of actions and statements that make crystal clear where we all stand, and generating broader and deeper pressure on the Asad regime.
The people of Syria deserve a government that respects their dignity, protects their rights, and lives up to their aspirations. Asad is standing in their way. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for him to step aside and leave this transition to the Syrians themselves, and that is what we will continue to work to achieve.
Thank you all very much.
The United States has been inspired by the Syrian peoples’ pursuit of a peaceful transition to democracy. They have braved ferocious brutality at the hands of their government. They have spoken with their peaceful marches, their silent shaming of the Syrian regime, and their courageous persistence in the face of brutality – day after day, week after week. The Syrian government has responded with a sustained onslaught. I strongly condemn this brutality, including the disgraceful attacks on Syrian civilians in cities like Hama and Deir al Zour, and the arrests of opposition figures who have been denied justice and subjected to torture at the hands of the regime. These violations of the universal rights of the Syrian people have revealed to Syria, the region, and the world the Assad government’s flagrant disrespect for the dignity of the Syrian people.
The United States opposes the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Syria, and we support the universal rights of the Syrian people. We have imposed sanctions on President Assad and his government. The European Union has imposed sanctions as well. We helped lead an effort at the UN Security Council to condemn Syria’s actions. We have coordinated closely with allies and partners from the region and around the world. The Assad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the globe, and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.
The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people. We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.
The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians. We will support this outcome by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this transition, and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people along with others in the international community.
As a part of that effort, my Administration is announcing unprecedented sanctions to deepen the financial isolation of the Assad regime and further disrupt its ability to finance a campaign of violence against the Syrian people. I have signed a new Executive Order requiring the immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria. This E.O. also bans U.S. imports of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products; prohibits U.S. persons from having any dealings in or related to Syria’s petroleum or petroleum products; and prohibits U.S. persons from operating or investing in Syria. We expect today’s actions to be amplified by others.
We recognize that it will take time for the Syrian people to achieve the justice they deserve. There will be more struggle and sacrifice. It is clear that President Assad believes that he can silence the voices of his people by resorting to the repressive tactics of the past. But he is wrong. As we have learned these last several months, sometimes the way things have been is not the way that they will be. It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.