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Diplomat urges UN commission to heed Russia’s data on victims of Syrian armed groups

July 30, 2013, 0:51 UTC+3
He said Russia hopes the report will include a recommendation on lifting sanctions against Syria
1 pages in this article
Photo EPA/ITAR-TASS

Photo EPA/ITAR-TASS

UNITED NATIONS, July 30 (Itar-Tass) - Russia hopes the UN commission for inquiry into possible encroachments on human rights in Syria will pay due attention to the information on the victims of violence committed by armed groups warring on the side of the Syrian irreconcilable opposition, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said Monday.

As he took the floor at an informal session of the UN General Assembly, he gave the assurances of Russia’s readiness “to continue interaction with the investigative commission but supplying it with contact information on victims of armed groups acting in Syria.”

“We hope the UN experts will use an opportunity to listen to these victims,” Churkin said adding that this will help balance out the next report the commission will draft.

He said Russia hopes the report will include a recommendation on lifting sanctions against Syria. “We are not convinced by the explanations that a formulation like this one /on the revoking of sanctions - Itar-Tass/ cannot appear in the text of a resolution, since sanctions are a matter of policy of the member-states.”

“In the final run, everything that’s happening is a matter of policy,” Churkin said.

The General Assembly heard a briefing of the chairman of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, who called for stopping the bloodshed in the much-suffering Arab country.

"Syria is in free-fall,” Pinheiro said. “Relentless shelling has killed thousands of civilians and displaced the populations of entire towns.”

“Hospitals have been bombarded, leaving the sick and wounded to languish without care,” he went on. “With the destruction of thousands of schools, a generation of children now struggle to obtain an education."

"The majority remain seriously fragmented, with fighters continually shifting allegiances, usually to better-resourced groups,” Pinheiro said. He claiming that “extremist elements are a minority”, but he had to admit along with it that they “play an active role in hostilities."

"Civilians are the real victims of this prolonged war,” he said. “Crimes that shock the conscience have become a dreadful daily reality in Syria. Over 800 days since the unrest first began, it is apparent that violations against civilians and hors de combat fighters by both sides continue with little regard to law or to conscience."

He repeated the accusations of torture that the West typically apportions to the government in Damascus, saying simultaneously that “some anti-Government armed groups also torture captured soldiers during interrogations, employing the same methods used by intelligence agencies."

"Those who supply arms to the various warring parties are not creating the ground for victory but rather the illusion of victory,” Pinheiro said. “This is a dangerous and irresponsible illusion as it allows the war to unfurl endlessly before us.”

“As the conflict extends, it opens the door to further immense human suffering and the possible conflagration of an entire region," he said.

"It is time for the international community to act decisively,” Pinheiro said at the end of his briefing. “There are no easy choices. To evade choice, however, is to countenance the continuation of this war and its many violations.”

“The conflict will not find its own peaceful solution,” he said. “Its path does not flow towards negotiation. Nevertheless a return to a negotiation leading to a political settlement is imperative."

Some participants in the session voiced reciprocal claims against the commission, which has failed to secure permission to enter Syria over the two years of its activity.

For instance, the Syrian ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari, accused the commission members of a deficit of professionalism.

He said the commission’s conclusions are based in many ways on the interviews with oppositionists conducted through Skype or face-to-face, while no contacts of any kind are kept with the legitimate Syrian government.

As a consequence of this, the commission produces unbalanced reports and pays much more attention to infractions on the part of the authorities.

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