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22 May 2014 - Security Council - Syria/ICC - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(UN translation)

I have asked to speak before the voting on draft resolution S/2014/348, which France had the honour to present, in order to explain the reason behind our approach. France’s proposal is not a new chapter in the divisiveness besetting the Security Council when it comes to the Syrian crisis; on the contrary, it aims at re-establishing the Council’s unity around the values shared by its members.

All of us around this table are horrified by the tragedy being experienced by the Syrian people: more than 160,000 deaths, more than 9 million displaced persons and refugees, a country destroyed, hunger and epidemics. That is already an overwhelming tally, against the backdrop of the certainty that both sides have committed atrocities against defenceless civilians. The presentation to the Council and the media of the “Cesar” report several weeks ago, on France’s initiative, served to underscore the barbarity. Thousands of photos, verified by independent experts, showed starved and tortured corpses in the regime’s prisons.

Killing, torture and rape occur today in Syria not just as atrocious consequences of a civil war, but as part of a deliberate policy to terrorize and punish. Commanders give free rein to their troops to ignore the law — or put more simply, humanity itself. The Government bombs civilian neighbourhoods with explosive barrel bombs, missiles and chemical weapons. Terrorist groups carry out indiscriminate attacks. Tens of thousands of people have been disappeared. Torture and starvation are carried out on a large scale. In a country with an ancient civilization, we are seeing the unleashing of brutality and cruelty whose victims are not mere statistics, behind which we too often hide, but men, women and children with names, faces and loved ones.

In the face of so many trampled lives and the negation of the values for which the Organization stands, nothing is worse than silence. For silence means acquiescence, compromise and complicity. I do not ignore the divisions that exist within the Council; I know the differing analyses of members. I respect them even if I do not share them. But certain facts are clear to all. As Mr. Brahimi said here in the Council a few days ago, there are no prospects in Syria today for negotiation. This is not the time or place to assign responsibility for that, but just to point it out. To argue that the involvement of international justice would undermine the peace process therefore makes no sense, as there is no peace process and, in the short and medium term, there are no prospects for any peace process either.

They refuse to negotiate because they want to be victorious and think they can be. They will not negotiate because they think it is a matter of killing or being killed. They will not negotiate with those whose brothers and wives they have killed or tortured. They are so afraid of their vengance that they must kill them too.

In that context, France’s proposal is based on the belief that the impasse should not lead us to turn our gaze away from the atrocities committed in Syria every day. It aims at overcoming our differences in order to focus on the asepct of our humanity we all share. The draft resolution was rewritten in order to make it acceptable to all. It aims to apply in the Syrian situation a principle already agreed in resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2139 (2113), namely, to reject impunity. It also covers the territorial integrity of Syria. With regard to the responsibilities of the parties, it again includes language repeatedly agreed and merely calls for recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in the Syrian civil war in line with similar provisions in resolution 1593 (2005), on the situation in Darfur, and in resolution 1970 (2011), on Libya, against which no Member State vote against.

Acting in unison, the Council would thereby say that it would not forget the crimes being committed today on a mass scale in Syria; that it would not forget that leaders tolerated them or even encouraged or ordered them; that in 2014 people could no longer behave as they did in 1942 or 1994; and that it would not allow the state of barbarity to return. Perhaps we could stop an executioner on the verge of committing a crime. In any case, we would restore the Council’s honour by allowing it to say the right thing and to re-establish morality over its divisions. I am convinced that, those divisions aside, we share the same values, the same indignation and the same resolve. The time has come to say so. The time has come to prove it.

The draft resolution I have the honour of presenting to my colleagues for a vote is an appeal to human conscience. It is not a political gesture; it is quite simply a moral act. If the Council were not to adopt it, that would be an insult to the millions of Syrians who are suffering. It would be proof that some have learned nothing from history. It would recall that some, whatever they may claim, have opted for unconditional support for the Damascus regime, whatever crimes it commits, and by the same stroke to exonerate Al-Qaida. Extending equal impunity to all criminals is not a paradox; there is brotherhood in crime.

A veto today would recall that fact. A veto would cover up all crimes; it would be a veto against justice. It would give new justification to the French proposal to limit the use of the right of the veto in the case of mass atrocities.

In response to the Russian Ambassador:

I had hoped that the tone of my speech would have demonstrated to everyone seated around this table and in the Chamber our determination that the Council not again manifest the same divisions. I wanted my statement to reflect my desire to respect the dignity of the debate — a debate that has to do with the infinite suffering of the Syrian people — and my desire that those who committed crimes be one day held to account for them. I see no other way except to appeal to the International Criminal Court. It was therefore a quite simple intervention. I regret the fact that the representative of the Russian Federation replied with an invective and direct personal attacks. I will refer to four points raised in my Russian colleague’s intervention: absurdity, confusion, error and, lastly, effrontery.

The representative of the Russian Federation appealed to Mr. Brahimi several times to convene new negotiations in Geneva. And Mr. Brahimi replied that it was impossible because the regime simply did not want to negotiate the transition. He said that he first needed a general agreement on terrorism, before negotiating the transition. If I define my Russian colleague’s description of the reasons for the failure of the Geneva negotiations as erroneous, it is because I am being quite polite.

Finally, referring to effrontery, I believe that in New York it is known as “chutzpa”: just like accusing Western Powers of providing weapons to the opposition while in fact Russia has never stopped selling weapons to the regime. I am absolutely speechless at the fact that the Russian Federation dares to raise the issue of weapons. But if the Ambassador of the Russian Federation wants, we can impose an arms embargo on Syria. I am ready to vote in favour of that. But would With respect to absurdity, it was said that we introduced draft resolution (S/2014/348) in preparation for a military intervention. I do not consider that point even worth arguing. As Talleyrand said, whatever is excessive is insignificant.

On confusion, we have heard and seen our Russian colleague moving from Tripoli to Baghdad, as if the crimes and excesses committed in Tripoli and Baghdad excused the current crimes and excesses in Damascus today.

In error, my Russian colleague asserted that the Syrian National Coalition was responsible for the current impasse in the Geneva talks. In fact, as Mr. Brahimi said himself here in the Council, in reality it is the regime that is refusing his proposed two-pronged approach, namely, parallel negotiations on the subject of terrorism and the matter of the transitional Government.

The representative of the Russian Federation appealed to Mr. Brahimi several times to convene new negotiations in Geneva. And Mr. Brahimi replied that it was impossible because the regime simply did not want to negotiate the transition. He said that he first needed a general agreement on terrorism, before negotiating the transition. If I define my Russian colleague’s description of the reasons for the failure of the Geneva negotiations as erroneous, it is because I am being quite polite.

Finally, referring to effrontery, I believe that in New York it is known as “chutzpa”: just like accusing Western Powers of providing weapons to the opposition while in fact Russia has never stopped selling weapons to the regime. I am absolutely speechless at the fact that the Russian Federation dares to raise the issue of weapons. But if the Ambassador of the Russian Federation wants, we can impose an arms embargo on Syria. I am ready to vote in favour of that. But would he vote in favour of an arms embargo? Clearly, I think he would not. Lastly, with regard to the statement that the Caesar report (S/2014/244, annex) is not verifiable — I regret to say that is simply not true. The Caesar report was submitted to independent experts from several countries and all of them said that the photographs could not have been technically altered.

I regret having to respond in this tone to the direct attacks on the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs and France. I wanted this debate to consider only the crimes and atrocities committed by both sides in Syria — as we have stated — and our straightforward determination to send the clear message that in 2014 we cannot not allow what took place in 1942 — notably at Russia’s expense — or in 1994 to happen again. There are judges, and one day the criminals will pay. However, some prefer to protect the criminals.


More on Syria

Here is the list of co-sponsors to the draft resolution.



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