Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

HRC resolution on Syria diagnoses problem, but offers no solutions

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The Assad regime's brutal crackdown in Syria has resulted in the death of more than 4000 people including at least 300 children, according to the UN.

On December 2, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) passed a resolution condemning the continued widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities.

The resolution was in response to findings of a new investigative report on human rights conditions in Syria prepared by the an independent Commission of Inquiry established by HRC.

The report found that the Assad regime's authorities and members of its military and security forces committed 'gross and systematic violations of human rights' and that may amount to crimes against humanity. The report documents patterns of summary executions, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture including sexual violence as well as a violation of children's rights. The Commission will present a written update to the HRC in March 2012.

The resolution was supported 37 to 4 with 6 abstentions. Russia, China, Cuba and Ecuador voted against it. Both China and Russia have strongly opposed meaningful Security Council action on Syria.

The HCR resolution included the following, it:

  • condemned forced disappearances, torture including against children, and sexual violence including against male detainees and children and noted the attacks were committed explicitly on the orders of the authorities;
  • recommended that the main bodies of the United Nations urgently consider the report of the Commission of Inquiry and take appropriate action and requested the Secretary General to report back on the implementation of the resolution;
  • called upon the Syrian authorities to fully cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner, including through the establishment of a field presence in the Syrian Arab Republic;
  • established a mandate of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, once the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry ends, to monitor the situation of human rights in Syria and to monitor the implementation of the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry addressed to the authorities of Syria and of the HRC's resolutions on the situation of human rights in the Syria. The resolution also called upon Syria to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur.

The resolution while welcome clearly does not go far enough. It diagnosed the problem but proposed to do nothing at all useful to remedy it.

The HRC resolution is weak in that it will not establish the Special Rapporteur until March 2012 when the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry ends - that's four months from now. It also rejected calls to seek the involvement of the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court.

Urgent and strong action is required to end the violence in Syria. The UN Security Council should immediately refer Assad to the International Criminal Court, and impose economic and political sanctions on Syria to deter Assad regime from its attacks on the Syrian people.

To read the complete HRC resolution click here.

To read the Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic click here.


Sharyn Mittelman