[Human Rights] HRC / 22nd Session, ID with the COI on Syria
We thank the chairman of the Commission of Inquiry for his report and we assure him and his colleagues of Austria’s continued support for their mandate. The civil war in Syria continues unabatedly and has become more militarized and radicalized. We therefore reiterate our condemnation of the brutal violence against the civilian population, which the government has employed to secure its tenure, and renew our assessment that President Assad has lost all credibility. The reports of the Commission on Inquiry confirm a long list of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by government forces and militias.
At the same time, we are increasingly worried about war crimes and human rights abuses committed by parts of the armed opposition. Austria unequivocally condemns all violations and abuses committed by all parties to the conflict in Syria.Recently, a group of more than 20 peacekeepers of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was detained. At the end of November last year also a convoy of UNDOF peacekeepers was attacked and four soldiers were injured. As a troop contributing country to UNDOF Austria strongly condemns these unacceptable incidents. We demand a full investigation and that those responsible will be held accountable. .
In wartime it is the civilians who pay the toll. Over a million have fled the country. Those who are left behind often live in precarious conditions, lacking basic commodities. The lack of medical coverage is catastrophic, in addition to direct shelling of hospitals there is an acute shortage of personnel and supplies. Humanitarian organizations play a key role in helping these civilians to survive. They must be given full and unfettered access to the whole territory by all parties to the conflict in order to assist all civilians, including the Palestinian refugees whose situation is particularly precarious.
All perpetrators and those ordering the crimes must be held to account, without exception. In this regard, we fully endorse the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry to the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. The gravity of the offenses committed and the unwillingness of the Syrian authorities to undertake credible investigations warrant such a referral. The Security Council needs to act, two years of bloodshed are more than enough. At the same time, a credible transitional justice process will need to be initiated for those crimes that may be below the threshold of the Rome Statute in order to avoid what the Commission calls an “impunity gap”. We would be grateful if the Commission of Inquiry could give its views on what such a justice process could look like and how the international community could support it.
I thank you.