to the General Assembly
Commissioner for Human Rights
13 February 2012
Members of the
thank you for the invitation
to address you on
the human rights situation in Syria under the agenda item “Human Rights
Council.” The worsening human
rights situation in Syria has
prompted the Human Rights Council to hold three
special sessions, to dispatch one fact-finding mission and one
Commission of Inquiry. The President of the Human Rights Council shared
report of the Commission of Inquiry with this Assembly on 29 November
Allow me to now update
you on the current human rights
situation in Syria.
violent Government crackdown
protests demanding freedom, dignity and social justice in Syria has
unabated for eleven months now. While no exact figures can be provided
our lack of access to the country, credible reports indicate that
security forces killed well above
5,400 people last year, including civilians as well as military
refused to shoot civilians. Due to extreme difficulties in
events on the ground, it has become almost impossible for my Office to
the death toll in the past two months. However, we are certain that the
of dead and injured continues to rise every day. Tens of thousands,
including children, have
been arrested, with more than 18,000 reportedly still arbitrarily
held in detention. Thousands more are reported missing.
25,000 people are
estimated to have sought refuge in
neighbouring and other countries. And more than 70,000 are estimated to
been internally displaced.
the protests have remained
largely peaceful, reports of armed
attacks by anti-government
fighters against Syrian forces have increased,
also with consequences on civilians. According to the Government, some
military and security personnel have been killed.
am particularly appalled by
onslaught on Homs. Since 3 February, in further escalation of its
the Government has used tanks, mortars, rockets and artillery to pummel
city of Homs. According
to credible accounts, the Syrian army has shelled densely populated
neighborhoods of Homs in what appears to be an indiscriminate attack on
civilian areas. More than 300 people
have reportedly been killed in the city
since the start of this assault ten days ago. The majority of them were
of the shelling.
indicate that hospitals,
which were already struggling to cope with all those injured in recent
are now overwhelmed. People have set up makeshift clinics throughout
beleaguered city. Medical supplies have been depleted. Shells have
least three makeshift clinics resulting in casualties.
to heavy shelling,
residents have been effectively trapped in areas under attack.
communication have been cut off in some neighborhoods. And food remains
humanitarian situation in Homs is simply
accounts of intensifying assault and worsening of humanitarian
been received from Zabadani, Dar’a, and al-Rastan. The risk of a
humanitarian crisis throughout Syria is
failure of the
Council to agree on firm collective action appears to have emboldened
Government to launch an all-out assault in an effort to crush dissent
overwhelming force. Yet, as the Secretary-General has said, “the lack
agreement in the Security Council gives no license to the Syrian
step up the attacks on the Syrian population. No government can commit
acts against its people without its legitimacy being eroded.” “The
brutality we are witnessing in Homs…is a grim harbinger of worse to
nature and scale of abuses committed by Syrian forces indicate that
crimes against humanity are likely to
have been committed since March 2011. Independent, credible and
indicate that these abuses have taken place as part of a widespread and
systematic attack on civilians. Furthermore, the breadth and patterns
of attacks by
military and security forces on
civilians and the widespread destruction of homes, hospitals, schools
civilian infrastructure indicate approval or complicity of the
the highest levels.
anti-government protests started, security forces and
Government-supported Shabbiha militias have been
for killing thousands of people through attacks on peaceful protests
large-scale military operations in several cities. They have used a
‘shoot-to-kill’ policy to crush
peaceful protests. Several defectors from military and security forces
said that they received orders from their commanders to shoot unarmed
protesters without warning. Snipers on rooftops are reported to have
protestors, ambulances, and bystanders who were trying to rescue the
and collect the bodies of those killed.
the brunt of the violence, as cities such as Homs, Hama, Dera’a and
been blockaded and curfews imposed.
During the blockades, residents have not been able to obtain water,
medical supplies. Military and security forces have targeted
tanks and water pipes. The blockades had often made it impossible to
injured to hospitals.
have been used as detention and torture facilities. Ambulances have
fire, and many of the injured and sick have been turned away from
hospitals in several cities. Wounded detainees have been subjected to
and other forms of ill-treatment in military hospitals. Evidence
indicates that doctors and medical workers have been pursued, arrested,
tortured by the security forces.
of the wounded avoid going to public hospitals for fear of being
tortured. The injured are largely treated in underground hospitals
in apartments, on farms, and at private homes. Hygiene and
conditions are rudimentary and the mere possession of medical supplies
information indicates that Syrian
and security forces have launched massive
campaigns of arrest, arbitrarily detaining thousands of protestors,
activists and other suspected of anti-Government sentiments or
have been involuntarily and forcibly
information show patterns of
widespread use of torture in
interrogation and detention facilities by Security forces. According to
information provided by army defectors, they received orders from their
commanding officers to torture.
reports of sexual
violence, in particular rape, in places of detention,
primarily against men and boys, are particularly disturbing.
have not been spared. Children have been
beating, sniper fire and shelling from Government security forces in
places throughout Syria. As of the end of January, security forces have
more than 400 children. Children, as young as 10, have been subjected
arbitrary arrest and detention. Children have been kept in solitary
confinement. They have also been kept in overcrowded cells with adults,
deprived of food and water. Schools have been used as detention
sniper post and military bases.
Members of the
am outraged by
these serious violations. I am very
distressed that the
continued ruthless repression and deliberate
stirring of sectarian tensions might soon plunge Syria into civil war.
longer the international community fails to take action, the more the
will suffer from countless atrocities committed against them.
Assembly, in its resolution of 19 December 2011,
condemned human rights violations and use of force against civilians by
authorities. It called on Syria to comply with its obligations under
rights law. However, the gross, widespread and systematic human rights
violations have not only continued but also sharply escalated.
Government of Syria has
manifestly failed to fulfil its obligation
to protect its population. Each
and every member of the
international community must act now to urgently protect the Syrian
of Arab States has responded resolutely to the events in Syria and
efforts should be supported. Unfortunately Syria failed to fully comply
the League’s Observer Mission and persisted in its violent crackdown.
League should continue its effort to compel Syria to end the violence.
Office remains ready to provide appropriate assistance to the League of
if the League so requests.
bodies, including my Office and the independent Commission of Inquiry
be allowed into Syria. And humanitarian actors must be guaranteed
immediate, unhindered access.
Fact-Finding Mission, the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, and I myself
concluded that crimes against humanity
are likely to have been committed in Syria. I have encouraged the
Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. All
States must ensure that these
not go unpunished.
crimes continue to be committed as I speak.
Universal Declaration for Human Rights, adopted by this Assembly more
years ago, makes clear that it is essential, if man is not to be
have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and
that human rights should be protected by the rule of law. The people of
are asking for the rights that every human being is entitled to. And
looking to this Assembly to speak with one voice to support them in