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Human Rights Council Holds Interactive Dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and Starts Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi. It also concluded its interactive dialogue with the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, said today, Syrians faced increasing and intolerable hardships, living among the ruins of this lengthy conflict. Millions were suffering in displacement camps, while resources were becoming scarcer, donor fatigue was rising, and now there was a cholera outbreak. The war was not over despite a general reduction in fighting. The Secretary-General’s urgent report on this issue contained a clear recommendation for the establishment of an international body, as called for by families and survivors, and this body, focusing strongly on victims and survivors and inclusive of families, must be established as soon as possible.

Syria, speaking as a country concerned, said Syria had rejected the creation of the Commission of Inquiry and the extensions of its mandate, and it rejected its politicised and biased reports. The latest report ignored the nature of the terrorist war targeting Syria and the external factors supporting the establishment of armed terrorist groups, which included thousands of foreign terrorists, that continued to commit crimes on Syrian territory. The Commission had distorted the efforts of the Syrian State to protect its people, provide for their basic needs, achieve national reconciliations and facilitate the return of displaced persons and refugees. Immediately and unconditionally lifting the economic blockade targeting the Syrian people was the gateway to ending their suffering and to ensuring their enjoyment of human rights, which were being violated as a result of unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States and the European Union.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers commended the work of the Commission and expressed concern about the deteriorating security, humanitarian and socio-economic situation in Syria. Some speakers condemned continued, serious violations of human rights committed by the Syrian authorities. They called for the situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court. Many speakers called for resolution 2254 of the Security Council to be implemented. A number of speakers said that the Commission’s report was based on fabricated information and was politically motivated. The Council should not interfere with the internal affairs and sovereignty of States. The Council should work to support the fight against international terrorism that was impacting Syria, and work to achieve peace through dialogue.

Speaking in the discussion on Syria were Lithuania on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic group, European Union, Qatar, Liechtenstein, Kuwait, Switzerland, Israel, Cyprus, Republic of Korea, France, Ecuador, Germany, Egypt, Ireland, Iraq, Australia, Luxembourg, Cuba, United Arab Emirates, Malta, Venezuela, Jordan, Russian Federation, China, Netherlands, Chile, United States, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, Romania, Belarus, Italy, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Burundi, Greece, Georgia, Malawi, Albania, Türkiye, Iran, Nicaragua, and Japan.

Also speaking were Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, World Jewish Congress, Physicians for Human Rights, Palestinian Return Centre, Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom, International Service for Human Rights, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, International Commission of Jurists, and International Bar Association.

The Council also started an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi.

Fortune Gaetan Zongo, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi, said it was essential today that Burundi reaffirmed its commitment and agreed to commit itself more effectively to advancing human rights. The human rights situation had not changed substantially. Establishing accountability was one of the keys to lasting peace, as was the need for deeper institutional reforms. Establishing and acknowledging the truth would help to recognise victims and encourage their social reintegration. A system for the protection of victims and witnesses of human rights violations needed to be established.

Burundi, speaking as a country concerned, said that Burundi was fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and complied with its international obligations in that regard. The situation had been improving every year in all sectors of life in the country, and a number of reforms had been initiated in terms of good governance, social justice, freedom of the press, civil and political rights, and national reconciliations, among others. The situation had improved, and the Human Rights Council should not miss this opportunity to remove Burundi from its agenda, as it was unfair and irrelevant to retain the special mechanism. The Special Rapporteur on Burundi should have his mandate ended.

The National Human Rights Commission of Burundi also took the floor.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia.

Radkiha Coomaraswamy, Member of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, said in concluding remarks that the Commission would consider how to work more closely with Ethiopian institutions while maintaining its impartiality. The Commission expected the Council to remain seized of the issues presented and to continue to monitor the situation, and urged the Council to work towards stopping hostilities and holding those responsible for abuses accountable.

Steven Ratner, Member of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, in concluding remarks, said that the Commission had examined violations that were of particular gravity. The Government had been working hard to secure access for humanitarian organizations to provide support. The Commission aimed to write reports that did not take sides in the conflict and maintained its impartiality.

In the continued dialogue on Ethiopia, speakers said there had been alarming reports of serious human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties during the conflict, including summary executions and sexual and gender-based violence. There was concern over the protracted humanitarian crisis and food insecurity across the country, which emphasised the urgency to cease all hostilities and negotiate a comprehensive ceasefire. All parties should guarantee full and unfettered humanitarian access to alleviate the suffering of civilians. The commitment of both sides to an African Union-led end to the hostilities was commended. The work of the Commission as a form of deterrence was vital, and it should have its mandate renewed, as the scale of the atrocities did, in some areas, amount to war crimes, and it was necessary for its work to continue. Some speakers said the work of the Commission should be based on impartiality, non-bias, non-selectivity, with respect for the sovereignty of Ethiopia, urging the Commission to focus on supporting the Government’s ongoing efforts.

Speaking in the interactive discussion were New Zealand, Malawi, Eritrea, Republic of Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Türkiye and Eritrea.

Also speaking were Ethiopia Human Rights Commission, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Human Rights Watch, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience, Amnesty International, Legal Action Worldwide, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Center for Global Nonkilling, International Bar Association, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, The Next Century Foundation, Society for Threatened Peoples, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Every Casualty Worldwide, and Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety.

Speaking at the end of the meeting in right of reply were Türkiye and Greece.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fifty-first regular session can be found here.

The Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 23 September to conclude the interactive dialogue with Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine.

Interactive Dialogue with the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia

The interactive dialogue with Kaari Betty Murungi, Chairperson of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, started in the previous meeting and a summary can be found here.

Remarks by the Delegation of Ethiopia

Ethiopia, speaking as a country concerned, said that Ethiopia expected the European Union to understand and respect the territorial integrity of the country. The Government had attempted to engage with the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, but the Commission had failed to implement its mandate, and had made all its efforts irrelevant.

Discussion

In the discussion, speakers said the nearly two-year conflict in North Ethiopia had caused thousands of civilian casualties and millions of displaced persons. In addition, there had been alarming reports of serious human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties to the conflict, including summary executions and sexual and gender-based violence. All allegations must be thoroughly investigated, and perpetrators of such atrocities must be held accountable.

There was concern about the protracted humanitarian crisis and food insecurity across Ethiopia, which emphasised the urgency to cease all hostilities and negotiate a comprehensive ceasefire. All parties should guarantee full and unfettered humanitarian access to alleviate the suffering of civilians. In regard to reconciliation, more needed to be done to ensure comprehensive and meaningful accountability. There should be a speedy settlement to the conflict, whilst maintaining Ethiopia’s physical integrity. The steps taken by the Government, including the Dialogue Commission, were noted. The commitment of both sides to an African Union-led end to the hostilities was commended. Some speakers supported the renewal of the Commission’s mandate and encouraged all parties to fully cooperate with the Commission.

A number of speakers said the work of the Commission should be based on impartiality, non-bias, non-selectivity, with respect for the sovereignty of Ethiopia. The Commission had chosen to ignore the guidance provided in the resolution, resulting in it reaching unbalanced conclusions based on insufficient information. Since the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights rested with States, international mechanisms should only play complementary roles. In this regard, the Commission was urged to focus on supporting the Government’s ongoing efforts.

Some speakers said that the primary need of the inhabitants of Ethiopia was peace and security, and all parties to the conflict should take the necessary steps to ensure the dignity and safety of all civilians. There should be an immediate cessation of hostilities. The Commission required time and finances to complete its mandate, particularly with regard to the difficulty that it faced in visiting the conflict area. The Government had failed to live up to international standards of transparency. The work of the Commission as a form of deterrence was vital, and it should have its mandate renewed, as the scale of the atrocities did, in some areas, amount to war crimes, and it was necessary for its work to continue. Independent reports had supported the findings of the Commission that what happened in Tigray amounted to war crimes.

The Government should immediately cease to target Tigray and civilians in the area, some speakers said. Member States should recognise the rights of all victims to live free from violence and persecution. The Commission should investigate whether genocide was being or had been perpetrated against the inhabitants of the Tigray region. The international community should act urgently to restore peace and stability to the region, and given the situation, it should be urgently referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation.

Concluding Remarks

RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Member of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, said that the Commission had held constructive discussions with all national institutions in Addis Ababa. It would consider how to work more closely with these institutions while maintaining its impartiality. The outbreak of war had a causal relationship with various human rights abuses. They needed to promote processes for justice at national, regional and local levels. The Commission expected the Council to remain seized of the issues presented and to continue to monitor the situation. It urged the Council to work towards stopping hostilities and holding those responsible for abuses accountable.

STEVEN RATNER, Member of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, said that the Commission had examined violations that were of particular gravity. The Government had been working hard to secure access for humanitarian organizations to provide support. The Commission looked forward to working with national institutions, providing them with advice about accountability and transitional justice. It aimed to write reports that did not take sides in the conflict and maintained its impartiality.

Source: UN Human Rights Council

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