Statement by Ambassador Günter Sautter at the High Level Event on the 10th Anniversary of the Syrian Revolution, March 18

18.03.2021 - Speech

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When we meet to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian conflict, it is important to remember why this conflict began in March 2011 and to call attention to what needs to be done in order to finally overcome this tragedy. 

I would like to thank today’s speakers - Mr. Anas Abdah, Ms. Thuraya Hejazi, Ms. Rime Allaf and Ms. Walaa Ahmado - for exactly having done so.

You reminded us that the conflict started when the Syrian people took to the streets in order to peacefully protest for change and reform and for the respect of their rights. But instead of listening to the demands of its citizens the Syrian regime responded by more oppression, violence, torture, murder - and by waging a brutal war against its own population.

You reminded us that it is for the Syrian regime’s system of brutal oppression and for the threat of arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, torture and violence why millions of Syrians have fled their country. And you reminded us that these are also the biggest obstacles for a safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their home.

You reminded us that systematic and wide-scale violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of international human rights law were and are still happening in Syria. There are numerous individuals, organizations and reports that have exposed the truth and documented abuses, crimes and atrocities.

We simply cannot tolerate impunity. Those who committed and are still committing crimes – in particular high ranking officials in Damascus - can unfortunately not be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court because of the veto of Russia and China in the Security Council.

But the recent ruling of a court in Germany in connection with torture in Syrian regime prisons is an important first step towards justice and accountability. This decision is also a symbol of hope for the tens of thousands who have been victims of torture and have suffered at the hands of the Syrian regime.

You also made it clear that national reconciliation and sustainable peace in Syria will not be possible without truth, justice and accountability for the most serious crimes and atrocities committed during the Syrian conflict.

You stressed that truth, justice and accountability are also necessary with regard to the tens of thousands arbitrarily detained, missing and disappeared persons in the prisons and detention facilities of the Syrian regime.

The immediate release of all arbitrarily detained persons is indeed an important aspect of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

But you made it clear: all aspects of Resolution 2254 must be implemented. This is the only way to achieve a political solution and to end the conflict in Syria.

Unfortunately, Resolution 2254 has not yet been implemented. In fact since its adoption we have not achieved any real progress. The primary responsibility lies, of course, with the Assad regime.

You emphasized and we fully agree with you:

  • There needs to be a political transition in Syria.
  • There needs to be substantial progress in the Constitutional Committee and an end to the persistent and systematic obstruction of the political process by the Syrian Regime.
  • There needs to be free and fair elections pursuant to a new constitution and under UN auspices with all Syrians participating, including members of the Diaspora.
  • There needs to be a nationwide ceasefire instead of attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure by the Syrian regime and its allies in total disregard of their obligations under international law and international humanitarian law.
  • And there needs to be unhindered humanitarian access and assistance through all possible routes to all people in need, including through the renewal of UN Security Council Resolution 2533 and the cross-border mechanism by the UN Security Council.
  • After ten years of conflict we finally need to see real progress towards the implementation of all these aspects of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, towards a meaningful and inclusive political process and towards an end to the repression of the Syrian people. Without such progress there can be no financing of reconstruction, no lifting of sanctions and no normalization.

Germany will continue to stand on the side of the Syrian people and we will continue to support their legitimate aspirations.

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