Press Conference - Opening remarks


28 February 2019

01:30 pm – Room III;  Palais des Nations

GENEVA, 28 February 2018 – Good morning and thank you for attending. We are here today to launch our 17th mandated report to the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. 

Despite a general reduction in hostilities in Syria last autumn, widespread violations and lawlessness countrywide paint a stark reality for civilians. First and foremost,  hostilities continue. The war is not over. 

Between July 2018 and January 2019, intense fighting continued in both northwest and eastern Syria with the civilian population bearing the brunt of the fighting. In this respect, I would wish to stress our  shock at the current escalations in Idlib where – yet again – hostilities have spiralled in recent weeks causing death and devastation. Up to three million desperate civilians continue to persevere in Idlib under the oppressive rule of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham terrorists, who are now largely in control of the governorate. 

Beyond clashes, seven years of prolonged hostilities have generated numerous security vacuums, elevating the risk of both continued violence in many areas and impunity for serious human rights violations which  render the possibility for safe and sustainable return completely illusory.

For these reasons, my fellow Commissioners and I note in this report that any plans for the return of those displaced both within and outside of Syria must be made in accordance with a rights-based approach that ensures sustainable solutions.

This report proposes a series of practical recommendations reflecting such a rights based approach being aimed at addressing the myriad issues affecting those displaced both within Syria and abroad.

This situation is further reflective of the lack of a political process and progress towards peace. There is no forum or space where warring parties are discussing and prioritising the concerns and needs of civilians. Now, more than ever, we stress the urgent need for  tangible progress  in the political process that can bring the parties of the conflict together to discuss Syria’s future. We welcome the appointment under of the Special Envoy, Mr. Geir Pedersen, in this respect and are glad that he has begun his role in earnest.  

Thank you. My colleagues, Karen AbuZayd and Hanny Megally, and I  welcome your questions.