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

Human Rights Council Special Session on Human Rights in Syria
2 December 2011


Australia welcomes the decision to hold a special session on human rights in Syria. There is, regrettably, much to discuss.

Since the last special session on Syria, the toll from the violence has more than doubled to be in excess of 4,000.

 The 23 November report by the independent international commission of inquiry details a substantial body of evidence indicating that gross human rights violations have been committed by Syrian military and security forces since the beginning of the protests in March 2011.

This body of evidence includes testimonies of excessive use of force by the military and security forces, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, torture, violations of children’s rights, and denial of medical assistance.

The report makes distressing reading. The international community must continue to face, head-on, the situation in Syria.

Australia shares the Commission’s grave concerns that crimes against humanity have been committed. That is why we continue to urge the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

And we urge the Syrian government to implement the recommendations addressed to it by the Commission of Inquiry, including meeting its responsibility to protect its population.

We urge Syria to cooperate with the Arab League, to stop its brutality, and to implement credible democratic reforms. President Assad should step aside to allow these changes to begin.

In circumstances where the Syrian authorities are failing to implement meaningful reform and reneging on their commitments to regional leaders to end the violence, Australia calls on the international community to maintain pressure on the Syrian regime.

The international community must also continue to help those affected by the violence. Australia stands ready, when required, to add to the $3 million we have provided to the International Committee of the Red Cross for the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Syria.

We commend the many brave Syrians who continue to demand their legitimate freedoms. The cost to them is increasingly clear. We call on this Special Session of the Human Rights Council to take decisive action on their behalf.