Human Rights Council passes resolution on Syrian Arab Republic in Special Session

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29 April 2011

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The resolution, adopted with 26 votes in favour, 9 votes against and 7 abstentions, calls on the government of Syria to, among other things, put an end to all human rights violations, protect its population, fully respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, allow access to the internet and telecommunications networks, and lift censorship on reporting. The resolution also urges the Government to release all prisoners of conscience and arbitrarily detained persons, refrain from reprisals against people who participated in peaceful demonstrations, launch a credible and impartial investigation into human rights violations and prosecute those responsible for attacks on peaceful protesters, and to enlarge the scope of political participation aimed at ensuring civil liberties and enhancing social justice.

The resolution requests the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights to urgently dispatch a mission to the Syrian Arab Republic to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law, with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring full accountability, and to provide a preliminary report and oral update on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic to the 17th session of the Human Rights Council.

Before the adoption of the resolution, the Human Rights Council continued a debate that it had begun this morning by hearing from Observer States and representatives of non-governmental organizations. During the afternoon discussion, speakers said that people would not endure oppression forever and the Human Rights Council must show it can react to such shocking violent events. Speakers said they were appalled by the violent attacks on peaceful demonstrators and called on Syria to cease violent actions against people practicing their freedom of assembly and expression. The escalation of violence in Syria posed serious challenges to the stability of the country and the region as a whole and Syria should facilitate greater access to media and information to allow an assessment of the situation. People took note of the recent positive reforms in the country and encouraged the Syrian Government to accelerate the implementation of these reforms. Speakers cautioned however, that the actions of the international community should not inadvertently complicate the situation by inflaming it further or endangering the unity and territorial integrity of the country.

Some speakers said they felt convening the Special Session was excessive, politicized and lacking in any dialogue and one more example of the double standard in the Human Rights Council. While noting that governments should listen to their people, some speakers decried what they called the selective use of human rights by some parties to fulfil political ambitions. The Human Rights Council ran the risk of establishing mechanisms of domestic interference. Mutual respect and genuine cooperation should guide the Council’s work in promoting and protecting human rights, including when dealing with the human rights situation in a specific country. The international community should engage constructively with Syria to find a peaceful solution.