Washington — U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said in Geneva August 22 that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is carrying out significant acts of brutality against anti-government opponents and that “innocent civilians are being massacred.”
“We have documentary evidence that they’ve used tanks, machine guns, grenades and snipers against peaceful protesters, human rights defenders,” Donahoe told reporters at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. Donahoe is the U.S. permanent representative to the council.
The Geneva-based Human Rights Council met for the second time since April on allegations that the Assad regime has committed significant human rights violations against the Syrian people. The session was held shortly after a U.N. human rights investigatory panel recommended to the U.N. Security Council that Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court for prosecution of alleged crimes.
“There’s growing unity and resolve that Assad must go,” Donahoe added. “He’s lost the legitimacy to rule the Syrian people.”
Compounding the urgency for international action, Donahoe said, is that the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general on children and armed conflict has let the Human Rights Council know that there are credible allegations of torture of children by Syrian security forces.
“We condemn, in the strongest terms, the ongoing slaughter and callous brutality unleashed by the Assad regime against the Syrian people,” Donahoe said during the council’s special session.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the 47-nation council that more than 2,200 people have been killed in Syria in the five-month-old crackdown. Donahoe told reporters that the United States supports accountability for atrocities against the Syrian people.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Assad in a telephone call August 17 that “all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately,” a U.N. statement said.
“Everyone knows that the human rights crisis has deteriorated significantly in the last few weeks,” Donahoe said. “The high commissioner for human rights has come out and indicated that there are credible allegations of systematic and widespread human rights violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.”
Donahoe said the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the European Union have urged Assad to immediately stop the violence, and President Obama has asked Assad to step down and allow the Syrian people to move toward a peaceful and democratic future.
The purpose of the special session on August 22 was to convince Assad that he must step down and the violence must stop, she added.
“The specific outcome we hope for is the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate facts on the ground in Syria and to bring the Syrian authorities who are responsible for the atrocities to account,” Donahoe said.
“To the brave people of Syria who are demanding freedom and dignity, we send the message that the world stands by you, and we will not ignore your plight,” she added.