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UK statement on the atrocities in Aleppo delivered at the Human Rights Council special session on Syria in Geneva

Delivered by Minister Tobias Ellwood on 21 October 2016.

The Human Rights Council takes place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva
The Human Rights Council takes place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

Thank you Mr Vice President, and thank you to all delegates for attending this Council.

For too long this Council has had to address the appalling suffering of the Syrian people. For too long its resolutions have had to condemn violations and abuses resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. And for too long the voice of this Council has been met with rejection, with denial and the consequence of a rising death toll.

As has already been said, the Syrian people are enduring unspeakable suffering. And nowhere is this more pronounced than in Eastern Aleppo.

Artillery, airstrikes, barrel bombs and incendiary weapons are devastating civilian areas and infrastructure. What right has any leader to do this to his own people? Hospitals have been bombed repeatedly. Hundreds of civilians – many of them children – have been killed since the Asad regime and Russia launched their assault on Eastern Aleppo in September. The regime is callously using starvation and siege tactics as weapons of war and seeking to force the population to choose between death by starvation and surrender, or fleeing the country entirely.

The UK condemns these heinous acts by Asad, his military and their Russian backers in the strongest terms.

There can be no defence for this assault on the Syrian people. Of course, we all recognise the need to tackle terrorism. The fight against terrorism needs to be carefully targeted and part of a wider initiative to counter their narrative. What we have seen in Syria has been hundreds of thousands of civilians killed, including children under the pretence of tackling terrorism. The actions of Asad and of Russia are driving radicalisation and fueling terrorism, not tackling it. Russia: you are making the situation worse, not solving it.

The international community has expressed its revulsion and anger at the situation. It has come together in a number of international fora, including this one, to make clear publicly its deep concern at the situation in Syria. Most recently the members of the UN Security Council tried to take action in support of the people of Syria but were blocked from this by Russia exercising its veto yet again.

Two images have perhaps defined the suffering of the Syrian people in this conflict, two images of children. The first, Alan Kurdi, the little three year old who drowned at sea and was washed up on a Turkish beach. And then there was Omran Daq Neesh, the six year old who was pulled from a bombed Aleppo building, suffering head injuries and placed in the back of an ambulance. I ask Russia directly, why have you placed this curse on the people of Aleppo?

This is shameful, and it is not the action nor the leadership the world expects from a P5 nation. Russia, you have a long and deep relationship with Syria. Build on this with its people and not with the Regime. Until this happens the international community must act where it can. The Resolution we are adopting today is a part of that. It states in strong and unequivocal terms that the indiscriminate attacks which are killing civilians in Aleppo must cease, and that those responsible must be held to account.

It is vital that the Council’s Commission of Inquiry conducts a full investigation and that there is no impunity for such barbaric acts. I urge all members of this Council to listen to the concerned voices of the people who represent all members of this Council and adopt this resolution.

Thank you.

Published 21 October 2016