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Twenty-Fourth Human Rights Council, Geneva, 9 to 27 September 2013

The UK's Statement on the Report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

UN Office in Geneva

The 24th Session of the Human Rights Council is taking place at the UN Office in Geneva

Thank you Mr President,

The UK supports the statement delivered on behalf of the EU.

I’d like to begin by thanking Special Rapporteur Beyani for his briefing and his graphic assessment of the socio-economic effects of the conflict.

Mr Pinheiro,

The UK thanks the Commission for its work. You are the only international body charged by the UN with documenting human rights violations and abuses, and collecting evidence so that the perpetrators of such crimes can be brought to justice. They will be.

I share the sense of horror and outrage we’ve heard in the Council today at the grave deterioration in human rights in Syria. The Commission’s report provides evidence of war crimes - the most heinous crimes of all - and committed by both sides. These are as unacceptable and they are unjustifiable. But with some eight out of nine massacres carried out by the Syrian regime in the period documented by the report, it is clear that the Government is responsible for by far the vast majority of violations. We are particularly alarmed by the growing reports of sexual violence and continues to believe that the situation merits referral to the ICC.

The Syrian Ambassador has complained today that the Commission’s report is biased. We believe this charge is baseless but the is one way to test this and that is for the Syrian Arab Republic to allow the Commission immediate, complete and unrestricted access throughout Syria. We call on the Syrian government to admit the Commission and with a broad range of co-sponsors will shortly bring a resolution before the Council calling on the Syrian Arab Republic to permit access.

The British government remains committed to achieving a political settlement. We call on all sides immediately to end all violence. The basis for a political solution was agreed in Geneva last year; namely the formation of a transitional government, with full executive powers, drawn from the regime and the opposition, by mutual consent. We are in close touch with our partners on convening a second conference to make this a reality. It is clear that no lasting or meaningful political solution can occur without the moderate Syrian opposition.

The UK shares the Commission of Inquiry’s concern over the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We are appalled by the attacks of 21 August and the UK supports the growing international consensus that the Syrian regime was responsible. We welcome the proposal drawn up this weekend by the United States and Russian Federation for the regime to hand over its chemical weapons and place them under international control within a rapid time frame.

If the Syrian regime verifiably gave up its stockpiles of chemical weapons, this would be a welcome step forward towards our broad objective of finding a political solution to end the crisis. At the same time, the UK will continue to do all it can to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, including by supporting the moderate Syrian opposition.

Thank you.

Published 16 September 2013