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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syria: Head of independent UN panel appeals to Member States to end relentless carnage

29 July 2013 – As “crimes that shock the conscience” continue in Syria, the head of a United Nations-appointed human rights probe today implored Member States to act decisively and put an end to the violence and carnage that has gripped the nation for more than two years.

“We cannot continue to recite a litany of violations and abuses to little effect either on the warring parties inside Syria or those walking along the corridors of power. It is not enough to be appalled,” Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said in his briefing to the General Assembly.

“There is an obligation to do what you must to bring this war to a close. This will require the international community not only to recognize, but also to demand, a diplomatic solution,” he added. “It is time to do what you must to bring Syria to a just and lasting peace.”

Established by the UN Human Rights Council in August 2011, the Commission also includes experts Karen Koning Abuzayd, Carla del Ponte and Vitit Muntarbhorn. It has been mandated to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law during the Syria conflict.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since fighting began between Syrian Government forces and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad. Almost 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced.

The Commission has provided 10 reports and updates so far, outlining a litany of “crimes that shock the conscience” which have become a daily reality for civilians, who are bearing the brunt of the conflict that began over two years ago. These include: indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment; disappearances; torture; sexual violence; and massacres.

Mr. Pinheiro noted that those who continue to perpetuate rights violations do not seem to have any fear of future accountability for their actions. Indeed, shining a spotlight on their unlawful conduct has not had the effect of stopping, or even slowing it.

“That civilians should come under such sustained unlawful attacks should shock your conscience and spur you to action. But it has not,” he told delegates. “As the conflict drags on, you – and the world – have become accustomed to levels of violence that were previously unthinkable. The absence of decisive action, by the community of States as a whole, has nourished the culture of impunity that has developed inside Syria today.

“This war is a chronicle of missed opportunities on the part of influential States and the international community,” he added.

It is time for the international community to act decisively, stressed Mr. Pinheiro, adding that a return to negotiation leading to a political settlement is imperative. He added that accountability must form part of the negotiations if any future peace is to endure.

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