Official speeches and statements - March 3, 2021
[translation from French]
I thank Ms. Brands Kehris and all the briefers from the civil society for their poignant testimonies and courage. I also thank the panel members for their briefings on the human rights situation in Syria, which usefully complement the last Council meeting on the humanitarian situation.
France associates itself with the declaration of the European Union and would add these elements in its national capacity.
After nearly 10 years of conflict in Syria, the situation remains alarming: human rights and international humanitarian law continue to be systematically violated, in particular by the Syrian regime, which bears the main responsibility for this tragedy.
We cannot but note the persistence of acts of torture, arbitrary detention, forced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence and serious violations against children. It is therefore crucial that all parties respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, as we have repeatedly stated.
Aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the humanitarian situation is deteriorating. The 20% increase in humanitarian and medical needs compared to last year makes it more essential than ever to ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access. More than half of the population is food insecure. The systematic blockages of humanitarian aid by the regime show the need to preserve the cross-border mechanism. The administrative and security restrictions and the refusal by the regime of 30% of UN access requests are unacceptable and must stop.
In defiance of international humanitarian law, populations, including humanitarian and medical personnel, and civilian infrastructure continue to be subjected to indiscriminate attacks. The protection of civilians must remain a top priority. 14 humanitarian personnel have lost their lives in the North-West since the beginning of 2020 and more than 900 medical personnel since the beginning of the conflict: we strongly condemn these attacks. These crimes will not go unpunished.
The fight against impunity in this context remains, in our view, a priority. France supports the Commission of Inquiry and its Chairperson for their essential work, which complements that of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism. The latest reports of the Commission of Inquiry detail the violations and abuses committed in the country, in particular by the Syrian regime, but also in areas under Turkish control. This work has also brought to light, war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially in detention centers run by the regime.
France also commends the mobilization of national jurisdictions that are pursuing this objective. A historic trial has been held in Koblenz. Several legal proceedings are underway in France as well.
We support the initiatives carried out by the civil society to put an end to impunity for the crimes committed by the regime. Their contribution in establishing the facts and prosecuting them is essential. In this regard, we salute the work of the NGOs present here.
The crisis in Syria today is far from being behind us. Everything must be done for an immediate cessation of hostilities under UN supervision at the national level, as well as a humanitarian pause, in accordance with resolutions 2565, 2532 and 2254, and the appeal of the UN Secretary-General. The resurgence of Daesh and the continuation of hostilities in the northwest and northeast are worrying signals, as is the growing instability in areas forcibly recaptured by the regime, particularly in the south.
France reiterates its support for the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General in the establishment of a credible political process. It is high time to make progress on all elements of resolution 2254, including free elections, while the constitutional committee is at an impasse because of the blockages from the regime. France calls for the full participation of Syrian women in this process, in accordance with the "Women, Peace and Security" agenda.
Until the regime agrees to engage in a credible transition process in accordance with resolution 2254, France and the European Union will not fund reconstruction and normalize their relations with the regime.
Finally, any attempt to blame Western countries for the situation in Syria is doomed to failure. The European Union and its member states remain the main donors of humanitarian aid, including in regime-held areas. European sanctions, for their part, directly target those responsible of the Syrian war machine in a targeted manner. Those responsible will have to account for their crimes before justice. There is no alternative to the fight against impunity to ensure a lasting peace in Syria.