Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
Address: Chemin des Fins 2, Case Postale 102, 1211 Geneva 19 - Telephone: 022 799 9100 - Fax: 022 799 9178

Australian Statement to the Human Rights Council Special Session on Human Rights in Syria, by HE Mr Peter Woolcott, Permanent Representative,

29 April 2011

Australia condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent injuries and loss of life at the hands of security forces in Syria. Credible reports indicate that actions by the Syrian security forces have resulted in around 450 deaths since popular protests began.

The violence we have witnessed over the last week in particular has been abhorrent. The use of live ammunition and heavy armaments against peaceful protestors is unacceptable.

Australia supports the UN Secretary-General’s call for an independent, transparent and effective investigation into the recent killings. Australia has raised its concerns directly with the Secretary-General, strongly encouraging him to consider appointing a Special Representative to Syria to report on developments.

Australia calls on Syria to take seriously its responsibility to protect its own civilians and to end the violence immediately.

The violence perpetuated by Syrian authorities violates some of the most basic human rights – the rights to life, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international human rights instruments. Peaceful protestors are entitled to make legitimate demands of their government, and to have their safety and security protected.

We also call on Syria to respond to the legitimate demands of Syrians by engaging in inclusive dialogue and by implementing genuine political and economic reform without delay.

The situation in Syria coincides with Syria’s candidacy to this Council. Australia strongly believes that under no circumstances should Syria be represented on the Council.

Syria’s membership of the Council would be an affront to the people of Syria. It would contravene the spirit of UN General Assembly resolution 60/251 which established the Council, and would undermine the credibility of the international community’s commitment to promote and protect human rights.

Australia calls for the immediate withdrawal of Syria’s candidacy and, should this not occur, for UN member states not to support Syria’s candidacy.

Australia stands by the people of Syria in their struggle for freedom. We salute their courage, their honour and their sacrifice. We call on this Special Session of the Human Rights Council to take decisive action on their behalf.