Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Arria Meeting on the Human Rights Situation in Syria

Published

National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Arria Formula Meeting on the Human Rights Situation in Syria, 19 March 2018, New York.

Thank you, Mr Chair,

This month we mark eight years since the conflict in Syria began. It was sparked by the government's brutal response to popular protests for increased democratic and human rights. The result: seven years of war, at an unimaginable cost in terms of misery and human life. It has also come with a cost to the credibility of the Security Council and the rules-based international order.

The inherent link between the protection and promotion of human rights and the maintenance of international peace and security is well known and reflected in the Charter. The OHCHR as well as the Human Rights Council's mechanisms and special procedures are independent and reliable sources of information which the Security Council should make better use of in its work.

So High Commissioner Zeid, that fact that we are meeting in this room, under a different format, does not prejudge the venue and form for these briefings in the future.

We expect you and your successor to brief the Council more regularly. I thank you, today, for your candid briefing on the horrific human rights situation in Syria. Indeed, it reinforces how relevant the situation for human rights is to the work of the Council.

The number of atrocities and human rights violations that have been committed in Syria is beyond imagination. You have said that what we are seeing in Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere in Syria are likely war crimes and potentially crimes against humanity. The international community has so far failed to unite to prevent these crimes; however, we will not give up our efforts, alongside yours, for justice for the victims and accountability for the perpetrators. The prevalence of these crimes and the lack of accountability, not only risks undermining international law, but also the future prospects for sustainable and long-term peace. In order to achieve a viable political solution in Syria, it is essential that the deteriorating human rights situation is addressed.

Mr Chair,

The Commission of Inquiry for Syria reports that government forces and affiliated militias in Syria are arbitrarily or unlawfully detaining tens of thousands of individuals in official and makeshift detentions centers. The vast majority is being held without due process, and is not allowed access to legal representation or to their families. They endure various forms of brutal torture and subsist in inhumane conditions. Many have died in detention, while others have been summarily executed.

It is significant that the newest report of the Commission of Inquiry focuses on sexual and gender-based violence. It is a chilling read. Government forces and associated militias have raped and sexually abused women, girls, men and boys during detention, ground operations, and house raids. Rape of women and girls has been documented in 20 government political and military intelligence branches and of men and boys in 15 branches. The Nusra Front has executed women and LGBTI persons. Stoning women and girls on charges of adultery, executing homosexuals and forced marriages of women and girls to Daesh fighters were recurrent in areas that were under Daesh control. These are examples of crimes against humanity and war crimes that cannot go unpunished.

I, therefore, reiterate the European Union's call for this Council to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC. Everyone around the Security Council table acknowledges or are ready to claim that crimes have been committed by various parties. That is why it is difficult to understand why a neutral referral of all crimes committed, a request for justice devoid of politics, is not possible. Until we are able to move forward on this issue, we must seek all other ways to pursue justice and accountability for the Syrian people.

Mr Chair,

We are working on numerous fronts and I would like to mention four areas in particular and very briefly:

Firstly, Swedish police and prosecutors continue to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes in Syria. This has resulted in the conviction of several individuals in Swedish courts. Other European countries are doing the same thing, and cooperation between national police and prosecutors is increasing. We encourage others, whose legal systems allow for it, to follow suit.

Secondly, we are a strong supporter of the IIIM We have also supported civil society in Syria for many years to gather evidence for accountability. How these efforts can contribute to the preparation of dossiers, not only for prosecutors in the future, but also for ongoing work under national jurisdictions, should be actively explored.

Thirdly, we support the work of the Commission of Inquiry, which gives us information that is also relevant to the Security Council. We repeat our call on the Syrian authorities to grant access to Syria to the Commission.

Finally, we have worked tirelessly, with colleagues, to push this Council to shoulder its responsibility for an independent investigative mechanism on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and we will continue to do so.

Mr Chair,

Today's briefing is also useful for the Council's monitoring of the implementation of resolution 2401. Once again, I call on all parties to implement the resolution immediately and in full.

The government is clearly still pursuing a military offensive, rather than engaging fully and comprehensively to implement a cessation of hostilities, as demanded by the resolution.

We thank the High Commissioner for highlighting the devastating impact that this war continues to have on civilians. We share the important concerns you outlined regarding displacement or the evacuations of civilians. We are particularly concerned for the human rights of the citizens of Eastern Ghouta, particularly men of fighting age. We are also increasingly concerned over the protection of civilians in Afrin. As always state, it should be clear that UNSCR 2401, and international law, applies to all of Syria.

Mr Chair,

For seven years the Syrian people have endured unspeakable suffering. We need to avoid that year eight becomes, which I believe, you Mr Zeid, have referred to as "a new phase of horror". We must redouble our efforts to fully implement resolution 2401, while working to find the political solution can bring an end to this futile war once and for all. At the same time, there owe it to the Syrian people to ensure that there can no impunity for the crimes that have been committed in Syria. Sweden will continue to do all we can to secure the accountability of all parties to the conflict.

Thank you.

 

Contact

Lisa Laskaridis
Head of Press and Communication, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN
Phone +1 212 583 2543
Mobile +1 917 239 0941
email to Lisa Laskaridis