Statement at the UN General Assembly Interim Oral Update with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in the Syria

Nicholas Hill
Deputy U.S. Representative for ECOSOC
New York, New York
April 8, 2022


We thank the High Commissioner for the update and the team at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for their efforts. March marked the 11th consecutive year of a conflict that has caused massive suffering for the Syrian people, sparked by the Assad regime’s violent response in 2011 to the Syrian people’s peaceful demonstrations. The Syrian Network for Human Rights has reported that approximately 1.2 million have been subjected to detention since 2011, with 152,000 Syrians still under detention or enforced disappearance. The vast majority are held by the Syrian regime. We have heard from the families of those detained and survivors of the regime’s detention facilities, who have briefed the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, and Human Rights Council. They want answers and they deserve justice. We underscore the importance of ensuring that Syrian voices, particularly those of the families of the missing, are centered in the UN’s reporting and recommendations.

This study on how to bolster efforts, including through existing measures and mechanisms, to clarify the fate and whereabouts of detainees and missing persons, is an opportunity to reinvigorate progress toward these important goals. Coordination and cooperation, both within the UN and with Syrian civil society and other stakeholders, are integral to any efforts to generate momentum and achieve progress on the release of detainees, international NGO access to detention centers, and the provision of information on the status of those disappeared. We encourage efforts to strengthen this coordination and identify existing gaps. We appreciate OHCHR’s victim-centered approach to the file. We encourage all relevant UN mandates on Syria and missing persons and relevant international organizations to enhance coordination efforts with Syrian civil society on the issue of the missing and detained in Syria.

We have not forgotten the aims of the peaceful protesters in March 2011, who called for the end of torture and demanded respect for human rights. Syrian human rights defenders – despite egregious abuses – continue to bravely advocate for democracy and human rights. We stand with them. We underscore the urgent need for an inclusive political solution that includes the release of arbitrarily detained Syrians, as unanimously agreed by the Security Council in resolution 2254.

The United States supports Syrian civil society organizations and the UN’s documentation and accountability-related efforts including the triple IM and the COI whose mandate was renewed by the UN Human Rights Council last week. Documentation helps ensure that relevant information and evidence are collected, secured, analyzed, and appropriately shared to promote accountability for those responsible for atrocities, violations, and abuses in Syria.

We urge member states to cooperate with the OHCHR and support the UN Human Rights Council resolution on the human rights situation in Syria and the annual General Assembly resolution on the human rights situation in Syria. We look forward to the UN’s recommendations for how to enhance measures to identify the fate of the missing, including detainees, in Syria. Finally, my delegation fully agrees with our UK colleague concerning the Iranian statement. We are not “politicizing” the situation in Syria, but rather we are seeking to bring about accountability.