Thank you for having taken the initiative to organize this important meeting. I also want to thank the High Commissioner for Human Rights for having provided the General Assembly with the latest update on the situation in Syria. Lastly, I support the statement that the EU representative has just made.
We are appalled by what we’ve heard today. Since the preliminary report issued by the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry in December, the situation in Syria has only deteriorated. The Damascus authorities are refusing to heed the repeated appeals by the Human Rights Council and this General Assembly; they are also refusing to heed the appeals of the League of Arab States. The Syrian authorities have retreated into a strategy of terror: they are continuing to resort, on a massive scale, to murder, torture, arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and all forms of violence against civilians who are peacefully expressing their aspiration for freedom. In not quite one year, at least 6,000 Syrians, including hundreds of women and children, have been killed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Every day there are dozens of new civilian victims - there’s an ominous lack of accurate figures - and the rate is so high that the High Commissioner hasn’t been able to provide exact figures since the start of the year.
And worse still, the veto by two Security Council members has emboldened the Syrian regime in its rationale for murder. This regime believes that it now has carte blanche to massacre its people, it doesn’t think twice about using heavy artillery to silence any form of opposition. The protest hubs, notably Homs, have been besieged and deprived of everything. The hospitals have themselves become centers of torture and detention, denying the injured of any chance of survival. The humanitarian situation is deteriorating day by day, while the authorities are still refusing to allow access to those in difficulty.
The Commission of Inquiry told us this in December; the High Commissioner confirmed it today: the Syrian regime is guilty of crimes against humanity. The impunity must stop: the Syrian authorities, and first and foremost President Assad, will be held accountable before the courts for their acts. Our attachment to the fight against impunity is well-known, we want to reaffirm it today in the face of the crimes that are taking place in Syria.
The double veto exercised at the Security Council will not prevent the international community from remaining mobilized in defense of the Syrian people. This veto will not stop us: France and its partners will continue to work in all forums in order to bring an end to the violence.
We must continue to support the League of Arab States’ initiative. For several months now, the League has done everything possible to put an end to the violence and to find a peaceful solution to the crisis and to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. The action plan that it adopted on November 2 and supplemented on January 22 paves the way for a democratic transition in Syria, which includes the transfer of power away from President Bashar al-Assad and the launch of national dialogue in an environment free of violence. This is the only credible peace initiative; the involvement of regional actors will be critical in determining its viability.
We welcome the decision taken yesterday by the League of Arab States to appoint a special envoy tasked with implementing the Arab plan. We want the UN Secretary-General to strengthen his ties with the League of Arab States, notably through this envoy. At the request of the Arab League, our Assembly will also take up the matter and it will be important for us to demonstrate our full support for the measures that it proposes.
Indeed, the international community’s efforts must be combined in order to support the Arab initiative. That’s why we’re lending our full support to the creation of a Friends of Syria group in order to bring together all States that condemn the atrocities being committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and support a peaceful transition in Syria. This group will allow us to galvanize international mobilization by coordinating the efforts to exert pressure on the Syrian regime. It will also allow us to show the Syrian people that the international community is not abandoning them.
We also pay tribute to the demonstrators in Syria who are fighting peacefully, with their bare hands, to defend their rights, their freedom and their dignity. We admire their courage and urge the opposition to rally around the Syrian National Council; we commend its plans to establish a democratic and pluralistic Syria, based on the respect for human rights, and guaranteeing the rights of minorities and their members.
Lastly, the situation in Syria will be the main focus of attention at the 19th session of the Human Rights Council in a few weeks. The Commission of Inquiry will then present its final report and recommendations. These will be examined with the utmost attention. We urge the Human Rights Council to take this next opportunity to unanimously condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the atrocities being committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime.