Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Human Rights Council Special Session on Human Rights in Syria

22 August 2011

Australia condemns in the strongest possible terms the ongoing violence committed by the Syrian regime. Credible reports indicate that an estimated 2000 people have been killed since March and thousands of others have been injured or detained.

The 18 August report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission for Syria, which covers events from 15 March to 15 July, details a consistent pattern of violence against unarmed protestors.

It reports accounts of summary executions, including of injured protestors seeking medical treatment; indiscriminate firing on civilians, including children, by security forces; and the use of tanks, heavy machine guns and helicopters in urban areas.

And the violence has escalated significantly since the end of the period covered by the report. The images that reach us, from courageous people who risk their lives to obtain them, are shocking.

As we said to this Council in April: the violence perpetuated by Syrian authorities violates some of the most basic human rights – the rights to life, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international human rights instruments.

Australia has called on Syrian President Assad to step down so that the people of Syria can engage in peaceful political activity and be given the chance to determine their own future.

Australia has also announced further targeted autonomous sanctions against members of the Syrian regime involved in violence and repression. These sanctions add to the existing measures imposed by Australia on the Syrian regime.

Australia continues to encourage the Secretary-General to consider appointing a Special Representative on Syria to report on developments.

Australia also continues to call for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and very much welcomes the recent call by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, that this take place. Those responsible for human rights abuses in Syria must be brought to account.

Australia supports calls for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of human rights in Syria since March. We call on the Syrian authorities to cooperate fully with a Commission of Inquiry.

The international community, including this Council, must send a strong message to the Syrian regime: the violence must stop and human rights must be respected.