Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
Address: Chemin des Fins 2, Case Postale 102, 1211 Geneva 19 - Telephone: 022 799 9100 - Fax: 022 799 9178

Human Rights Council

Special Session on the deteriorating human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

Statement by Australia

1 June 2012

Australia welcomes the decision to hold this special session of the Human Rights Council on Syria following the brutal massacre in the Syrian town of El-Houleh on 25 May.

We are deeply troubled by this odious crime resulting in 108 civilian deaths, including dozens of women and children. We are appalled by evidence of Syrian Government involvement, no less than by the Assad regime’s brazen denial of culpability.

No effort should be spared in bringing the perpetrators of this atrocity to justice by way of a credible and independent investigation.

Australia, like others, registered its strong condemnation of the El-Houleh massacre by expelling the Syrian chargé d’affaires and one other Syrian diplomat.

Deeply disturbed by the spiralling violence, Australia continues to demand that the Assad regime immediately cease all military operations and take active steps to implement Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan.

The six-point plan represents the best option for bringing an end to the violence. It has strong international support, and we must work assiduously to secure its implementation by all sides. Failure to do so would have unimaginably dire consequences.

The growing body of evidence of gross violations of human rights by Syrian Government forces – kidnappings, torture and extrajudicial executions– is particularly disturbing, as are indications of abuse by opposition forces. While all parties to the conflict have an obligation to respect and protect the human rights of their fellow citizens, the Syrian Government has a special responsibility in this respect.

In light of the deteriorating human rights situation, the Australian Government urges coordinated international action to bring increased pressure to bear on the Syrian Government.

For our part, Australia stands ready to do more to pressure the Assad regime. Australia's autonomous sanctions regime against Syria currently includes travel and financial restrictions against 106 individuals and 28 entities and an arms embargo and we are actively considering more robust sanctions measures. Australia calls on the UN Security Council to consider the imposition of international sanctions, including an arms embargo, as well as financial and travel restrictions.

The ever greater human toll, including growing refugee flows, underscores the urgency of a durable, inclusive political resolution. For our part, Australia has pledged $11 million in humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and we are considering additional support.

The international community, including through this Special Session of the Human Rights Council, must act swiftly to exert ever greater pressure on the Assad regime in light of its brutal suppression of its citizens and flagrant disregard for their legitimate rights and aspirations for a future of democracy, peace and hope.