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Intervention de Navi Pillay, Haut Commissaire des Nations-Unies pour les Droits de l'Homme, à l'Événement parallèle de l'IDC à l'ONU.

Date de publication: 07.06.2013

John Laughland, directeur des Etudes de l'IDC; Navi Pillay, Haut Commissaire des Nations-Unies pour les Droits de l'Homme; et Natalia Narotchnitskaïa, présidente le l'IDC. Palais des Nations, Genève, 7 juin 2013

 Statement by Ms Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,

at the Side Event to the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council

on "Syria - the Path to Peace"

 

I thank you for your invitation to address you on the situation in Syria. The situation on the ground has exceeded our worst fears. The brutal violence inside Syria has steadily spread, increasingly along sectarian and ethnic lines, adding a deadly and combustible new element to what began as a political and social struggle.

The growing role of radical groups, such as Jabhat Al Nusrah, which is included in the Security Council’s list of terrorist organisations, is in turn contributing to the increasingly vicious nature of the conflict and significantly adding to the suffering of civilians. The growing number of foreign fighters, and the supply of arms to both sides, is clearly helping to fuel the conflict.

The regional dimension of this conflict is growing more and more ominous. At the beginning of the crisis, I warned that the situation in Syria could threaten the fragile stability of the region, and spill across its borders. Yesterday’s fears have become today’s reality.

As you are aware, earlier this week the Independent International Commission of Inquiry presented its most recent report to the Human Rights Council. Many of the Commission’s findings are similar to those of OHCHR’s Monitoring Team, which I deployed in March 2013 to countries neighbouring Syria.

The disregard for human life and dignity by the parties to the conflict is utterly appalling. Serious human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity are becoming the norm.

Government forces continue to carry out indiscriminate and disproportionate shelling and aerial bombardment resulting in deaths and injuries of civilians, including women and children. Government forces and affiliated militias have reportedly carried out acts of collective punishment against civilian populations perceived to be sympathetic to the opposition. As noted by the Commission, widespread arbitrary arrests and detention are being used as a weapon of war, and to collectively punish civilian populations perceived to be sympathetic to, or supporting, the opposition. Torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, as well as extra-judicial and summary executions are being routinely committed by Government forces and affiliated militias.

I remain equally concerned by violations committed by some anti-Government armed groups, which have increased alarmingly. These include acts of torture, abductions and kidnappings, sometimes along sectarian lines, and the use of children as soldiers. Killings, violence and threats of reprisals against civilian populations perceived to be supportive of the Government have also been escalating. Many of the anti-Government armed groups are reportedly engaging in military operations within populated areas, thereby endangering civilians, including women and children. Other armed groups have reportedly carried out sporadic shelling of pro-Government areas, according to the Commission of Inquiry report. I also deplore the use of explosive devices, such as car bombs and suicide bombs, that have caused civilian casualties, by some anti-Government armed groups.

A year ago, massacres were still a relatively new, if particularly shocking, development. Now, they are becoming commonplace – a fact that illustrates quite how catastrophic the situation has become. I am horrified by the Commission of Inquiry’s finding that 17 incidents, which may potentially be defined as massacres, were committed within the four-month period covered by the recent report, and as many as 30 such mass killings may have occurred over the entire course of the conflict so far.

I am also deeply alarmed by the Commission’s observation that there are reasonable grounds to believe that chemical agents have been used as weapons – although the precise agents, delivery systems or perpetrators could not yet be definitively identified.

Another particularly worrying and persistent feature of the Syrian conflict is sexual violence. Credible reports note that both parties to the conflict have committed such violations. I am also concerned about reports noted by the Commission of Inquiry about Syrian women in refugee camps, who are allegedly facing gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation, rape and forced marriages.

Both parties have targeted cultural property and places of worship, including mosques and churches.

Inter-communal violence and incitement

The growing sectarian undertone of the Syrian conflict and clear examples of incitement along sectarian lines are starting to undermine the long-standing harmonious coexistence of all communities in Syria. Syria has long been celebrated for its inter-communal tolerance, with Sunnis, Alawites, Shia, Christians, Kurds, Druze and many other communities living peacefully side-by-side. I urge all parties, if only for the sake of their own families and their descendants, to take immediate concrete steps to rein in the extreme elements –whether domestic or foreign -- who are driving this deadly sectarian wedge into Syria’s heart.

The region has already witnessed the long and heavy cost of inflamed sectarianism, including in two of Syria’s closest neighbours which are still recovering after years of conflict and devastation. Once sectarianism reaches a certain pitch, it can take decades before previous levels of trust and tolerance are regained.

Humanitarian situation

The conflict has resulted in the displacement of more than four million civilians within Syria, and forced more than 1.6 million Syrians to flee across its borders. Many more are expected to flee due to fear of further violence.

Shortages of food, water, medicine, and other basic necessities, particularly in besieged areas, have gravely affected civilians. Hospitals and health care providers continue to be directly targeted. I call upon all parties to respect their obligations under international law, and to urgently permit relevant agencies unfettered access to all areas of Syria to provide humanitarian assistance to all conflict-affected populations. I call for immediate access to international organizations and observers to assist the needs and provide assistance to those still in Al Qusayr.

Peace and Justice

I urge all parties to immediately cease acts of violence against civilians and to protect them from hostilities in compliance with international law. The supply of weapons to both sides must stop. We should silence the guns and let diplomacy do the talking.

I welcome the proposed International Conference on Syria in Geneva. The parties must begin genuine negotiations on an inclusive and comprehensive peaceful process for change. Only a negotiated solution which guarantees the political participation and the protection of the rights of all Syrians – regardless of their religious, ethnic or political affiliation – can avert further human rights violations and further misery.

Throughout our continuing efforts to bring peace, we should maintain a key and non-negotiable principle that, accountability and justice will not be set to one side. War crimes, crimes against humanity and grave human rights violations cannot be allowed to go unpunished. Therefore, I once again urge the Security Council to refer the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court. Sustainable peace will only be possible if accountability and justice prevail.

Tragically, at this point, neither peace nor justice are visible on the near horizon. Once again, I urge all the warring parties, and the external States that have influence on them, to reflect on where their policies have led so far, and how to bring about a fundamental shift that will enable peace and justice to be restored before thousands more are killed, maimed or forced to flee, with grave ramifications for the rest of the region and, indeed, the world at large.

Thank you.



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