Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
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Human Rights Council - 25th Regular Session

Item 4
Interactive Dialogue with Commission of Inquiry on Syria
Australian Statement

18 March 2014


The Commission of Inquiry’s reports on Syria have documented a worsening tragedy. As bad as the abuses depicted in past reports have been, today’s describes worse still.

The Syrian regime is paying little heed to its obligations to protect civilians. The reporting period includes the use of chemical weapons in Al-Ghouta - a serious international crime. The international reaction has not deterred the regime from the illegal use of incendiary weapons and indiscriminate aerial bombardment and shelling. The report describes the dire conditions faced by 254,000 besieged Syrians - 209,000 trapped by the regime.

Australia is deeply concerned that the conflict has taken on a sectarian dimension. The report details numerous instances of people who may have been killed, detained or tortured on the basis of their religion or community affiliation. This persecution is unacceptable and Australia condemns these attacks in the strongest terms.

We are appalled by the systematic use of rape, sexual torture and sexual violence by regime forces and pro-government militia which constitute crimes against humanity. Australia condemns the recruitment of children by pro-government militia and armed opposition groups. The regime’s indiscriminate violence has caused large-scale arbitrary displacement - a refugee crisis - that disproportionately affects women and children.

The report catalogues the grave abuses including execution, torture, arbitrary detention and hostage-taking inflicted by extremist groups, notably the Islamic State of Syria and Al-Sham (ISIS). No party to this conflict has clean hands. But we should not conflate the horrific crimes committed by groups like ISIS with all armed opposition groups. Australia encourages the Commission to make this distinction clearly.

The perpetrators of serious international crimes in Syria must be held to account. Security Council referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court would send a strong message that the international community will not tolerate these crimes.

Australia urges all parties to adhere to UN Security Council Resolution 2139.