Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
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Human Rights Council - 19th Regular Session

Australian statement on Syria

12 March 2012


We thank the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic for its report of 22 February 2012. We are deeply concerned by the report’s conclusion that the Syrian Government has committed widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations, and we have all heard reports of further abuses by Syrian security forces in Homs following the withdrawal of opposition forces last week. Fighting continues in many parts of the country. This has included the use of heavy weapons in populated areas, which are indiscriminate in whom they target. Australia condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the ongoing violence by the Syrian regime.

The Report also concluded that anti-government groups have committed abuses. While these were assessed as not being “comparable in scale or organisation to those carried out by the State”, the Australian Government deplores all acts of violence and calls on all sides to respect human rights and exercise restraint.

Australia welcomes the visit of UN humanitarian affairs chief Baroness Amos to Syria on 8 March, and of the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League on the Syrian crisis, Mr Kofi Annan, on 10 March. These efforts are vital to accurately assess the extent of the humanitarian crisis and the best way for the international community to respond. It is imperative that the Syrian Government cooperate with these efforts in the interests of its own people. We join the international community in calling on the Syrian Government, once again, to put an end immediately to gross human rights violations and allow unrestricted access for humanitarian workers and monitors. We urge Syria to work with the Arab League to implement inclusive democratic reforms to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.

Australia was profoundly disappointed at China’s and Russia’s veto of the United Nations Security Council’s proposed resolution on Syria on 4 February 2012. This was an opportunity for the Security Council to help bring an end to the crisis and to stop the bloodshed.
The Security Council’s failure stands in stark contrast to the successful 16 February UN General Assembly resolution which demonstrated clearly the international community’s strong condemnation of the human rights violations occurring in Syria and its resounding support for the Arab League’s efforts to resolve the situation.

The Security Council now can fulfil its responsibility to assist the Syrian people by supporting the efforts of the Arab League and urging the Syrian Government to take the steps necessary to bring an end to the crisis.