Friday, February 17, 2012

Syria: General Assembly demands Syria halt violence without delay - that should do the trick

Amb. Bashar Jafa’ari of Syria, addresses the General Assembly on the situation in his country, during debate on 13 February 2012. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

- The General Assembly today strongly condemned the continued “widespread and systematic” human rights violations by the Syrian authorities and demanded that the Government cease all violence and protect its people.

The 193-member body adopted a resolution backing Arab League efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria, where UN officials estimate that security forces have killed well over 5,400 people since the popular uprising began last March.

Thousands of people are also believed to be missing, some 70,000 people are internally displaced and 25,000 have fled the country to avoid the violence.

The resolution strongly condemned the continued “widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities,” such as the use of force against civilians, arbitrary executions, the killing and persecution of protesters, human rights defenders and journalists, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, interference with access to medical treatment, torture, sexual violence and ill-treatment, including against children.

The text, which was adopted by a vote of 138 in favour to 12 against with 17 abstentions, also called on Syria “to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against civilians.”

Speaking before the vote, Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari of Syria called the draft a “biased” text that has nothing to do with the situation in his country. He cited several developments that respond to popular demands, including the referendum set for 26 February on a new constitution and the intention to hold a national dialogue.

No country can allow the presence of armed terrorist groups on its territory, he stated, adding that he had “deep concerns” vis-√†-vis the real intentions of the countries that have co-sponsored the text. He called on these countries to stop interfering in internal Syrian affairs and stop adding fuel to the fire of the tensions in his country.

Today’s action follows the recent failure by the Security Council to agree on collective action on the issue after Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution endorsing Arab League efforts to end the crisis.

It also follows a debate in the Assembly on Monday during which the UN human rights chief appealed to Member States to act now to protect the Syrian people as the Government’s violent crackdown on peaceful protests continues unabated and the number of dead and injured continues to rise.

“The longer the international community fails to take action, the more the civilian population will suffer from countless atrocities committed against them,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the Assembly.

“The Government of Syria has manifestly failed to fulfil its obligation to protect its population,” she stated. “Each and every member of the international community must act now to urgently protect the Syrian population.”

The text also called for “an inclusive Syrian-led political process, conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation and extremism and aimed at effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the people.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called again on the Syrian Government to comply with international humanitarian law and put an end to the “mounting loss of life” the country has experienced over the past year.

Speaking to reporters in Vienna, Mr. Ban stressed that the lack of agreement in the Security Council does not give the Syrian Government a licence to continue to attack its own citizens. “The longer we debate, the more people will die.”

“I commend the continued efforts of the League of Arab States to stop the violence and to seek a peaceful resolution of the crisis that meets the democratic and legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” Mr. Ban said.

Mr. Ban discussed the situation in Syria during bilateral meetings today with key international officials, including French Foreign Minister Alain Jupp√©, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Austria’s Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger.

The Secretary-General reiterated that stopping the violence and establishing humanitarian access remain the top priorities for the UN.