I should like to thank Under-Secretary-General Pascoe for his briefing to the Council on the situation in Syria, which has further heightened the concerns of its members.
I would like to express, before the Council, France’s deep concern at the violent actions of the Syrian authorities against civilian demonstrators. We unreservedly condemn such unacceptable brutality, which has already caused not only hundreds of deaths among Syrian civilians, but also numerous disappearances of demonstrators, journalists and human rights activists. For the past three days, Dar’a has been a city besieged by the Syrian army, deprived of water, electricity and contact with outside world, surrounded by tanks and threatened with heavy artillery. The memories of the bloody massacres of the civilian population in Syria in the early 1980s, in particular in Hama, are too painful for the international community to silently stand by in the face of escalating repression.
Today, the Council must send a clear message to the Syrian authorities that this indiscriminate and brutal repression must stop immediately. The Syrian authorities must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the country’s citizens, particularly the right of peaceful protest and freedom of the press. The arbitrary arrests must stop, as must the restrictions being imposed on the media. We call on the Syrian authorities to immediately release prisoners of conscience. We support the Secretary-General’s appeal for an independent, transparent and effective investigation into the crimes that have been committed. Those who ordered and perpetrated those acts should be held accountable for their actions.
Only reforms responding to the legitimate aspirations of the population will help to preserve the country’s stability, which is in the interest of all. Syria plays a decisive role in regional stability. However, at this stage, we cannot help noting that the lifting of the state of emergency and other reforms announced by the President have been followed by a contradictory upsurge in violence. The Syrian people’s call for freedom, democracy and respect for their universal rights must be heard by the Syrian authorities or, failing that, by the Security Council.
If no positive developments unfold, France and other countries will review a wide range of alternatives for increasing pressure on the Syrian regime to stop the repression and take steps towards reform. Strong measures must be taken if these calls go unheeded. The Human Rights Council is also seized of the matter, and we trust that it will adopt a resolution at the close of its special session on Friday.