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Address by H.E. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey at the UN Human Rights Council, 25 February 2013, Geneva




(Geneva, 25 February 2013)

Mr. President,

Madame High Commissioner,


I am honored to be among you today to address this august body. It is especially meaningful to be in Geneva at the Human Rights Council and in the presence of the High Commissioner on Human Rights at this session. At this session we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights that led to the establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner. The spirit and essence of the Vienna Conference guide us in our efforts to improve human rights all over the world. Both the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have become essential and indivisible components of the struggle for human rights.

We, the Governments of different countries, represent common conscience of humanity. Despite our political divergences, as far as human rights and humanitarian issues are concerned, our focus must be on our common values of humanity without discrimination. We should act with a ‘united humanitarian conscience’ under the flag of the United Nations.

The issues the Council deals with - from the tragedy in Syria to the intolerable developments in Palestine; from the fight against racism and intolerance to migrants` rights and freedom of expression - are subjects that are on the forefront of the global agenda. The work done here is of utmost value, formulating universal principles that constitute guidelines.

Mr. President,

As a complete disregard of the values we all share, a humanitarian tragedy is still going on in Syria before the eyes of the international community. Today, Syria has become a scene of appalling human rights violations.

The regime forces are shelling the cities indiscriminately, firing SCUD missiles at urban areas, even by targeting hospitals as well as civilians waiting at the bakery queues.

As recently stated by the High Commissioner, the monthly average of documented death toll in Syria has increased to 5,000. As we speak today, nearly 200 more people have died. We are not talking about mere statistics. Each number means a human life and yet another violation of right to life. The number of political prisoners as well as the plight of the persons who are exposed to inhuman treatment is unknown. To illustrate the actual horror on the ground, around 20 opposition members have been killed on a daily basis as a result of systematic torture. According to the last survey conducted by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, 1,215 people were reportedly killed because of systematic torture.

I believe the main case in point here is the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. This Commission has been working tirelessly for the past year and a half to investigate the human rights violations in Syria in the most difficult conditions. Although it has not been allowed access to the country, the Commission brought to light important information on the situation in the country through its interviews with thousands of witnesses.

As Turkey, we have allowed wide access to the Commission in respect of fulfilling its mandate. Turkey will remain committed to supporting the Commission in order to deter violations of human rights and lay the foundation for future accountability. Perpetrators of human rights violations must know there will be no impunity; they all will bear the consequences. The outrageous human rights violations in Syria led to a gross humanitarian tragedy in the country:

- Three and a half million people have been internally displaced.

- Almost a million Syrians have sought shelter in neighboring countries.

- Altogether, more than a quarter of the Syrian population are in dire need of humanitarian assistance within Syria and in the neighboring countries.

Turkey itself is doing its utmost to shoulder a large part of the humanitarian catastrophe. The figures I will share now are striking to show the level of human rights violations:

- The number of Syrians in the 17 camps is more than 185 thousand.

- Over 100 thousand Syrians are now living in various cities in Turkey.

- 26,315 students are receiving education by 1,224 teachers in 372 classrooms in camps,

- 24,370 Syrians received technical training,

- 727,640 patients were treated, 17,670 patients are still in Turkish hospitals, 10,450 medical operations were realized.

- More importantly, 2,490 babies were born in those camps,

Those children could have been born or educated in their country, and in peace. But their basic rights have been violated. For us, it is a challenging responsibility with great cost. Turkey has so far spent more than 600 million US Dollars. But no matter how difficult the challenge is, we will continue our open door policy and stand by our Syrian brothers and sisters.

We have a serious question here. For how long we, the international community, will allow this humanitarian tragedy to continue? How long we will continue to look the other way while the people of Syria suffer tremendously at the hands of a bloody regime?

The regime has lost its legitimacy. It is no longer governing. It is surviving by oppression, terror and massacres.

More importantly, the situation in Syria has evolved into a real threat to regional peace and security.

The Syrian regime deploys every instrument to turn the legitimate struggle of the Syrian people into a sectarian war, which would engulf the entire region into flames.

Unfortunately, the longer this regime is allowed to wage its campaign of violence, the harder it will be to prevent such a dreadful eventuality.

There has to be a solution to ensure the immediate safety and security of the Syrian people.

There has to be a solution for a sound transition process that will pave the way for the creation of a new and democratic Syria.

This is the only way for preventing further bloodshed and reinstating order in the country.

Mr. President, Madame High Commissioner,

The Syrian people need our united support and solidarity in their struggle for their future. What they need now is not more speeches of sympathy and promise only, but effective and real support. The fundamental objective of this august body, the Human Rights Council, is to protect and promote human rights and freedoms. In these times of change, such basic values should be upheld indiscriminately and in a non-selective manner.

I, therefore, would like to appeal to this august body to undertake two important initiatives:

- First, international community should establish the proper environment for access to humanitarian assistance for all in Syria. The P5 may have different political views, but it is imperative for them to unite over the common humanitarian values. It is incomprehensible to hinder humanitarian access. The UN Security Council should adopt a resolution to ensure humanitarian access and introduce measures to those who prevent such access.

- Second, even in times of war, there are rules. Geneva based humanitarian organisations are well aware of this fact. Today, the regime is waging a brutal war against the Syrian people through indiscriminate air bombardments and Scud missile attacks against urban areas. We should join our efforts to bring an immediate end to crimes against the Syrian people perpetrated by the regime. We have to make sure that all perpetrators will not go unpunished.

Mr. President,

Madame High Commissioner,


As we have gathered here today to join our voice to uphold human dignity, we need to focus once again on the suffering by the Palestinians under Israeli occupation as well. This has been a bleeding wound in the conscience of all humanity ever since the United Nations was founded. The occupying power today, regards itself as being above all international human rights and human rights law, basically harming the Palestinians in three ways: land, people and dignity.

Firstly, it is the illegal settlements that deprive the Palestinians of their native territory, by systematically grabbing their land, occupied since 1967. The report by the Fact Finding Mission mandated last year by this body estimates that there are now more than half a million illegal settlers. We strongly condemn this “creeping annexation” as the report suggests, which is aimed at destroying the two-state vision living side by side in peace and security. Israel aims at “transforming the conflict” rather than “resolving” it. Ironically, however, Israel will never understand that its security will not be ensured without a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.

Secondly, it is the human suffering in the hands of the Israeli security forces. The world has been witnessing the dire circumstances the Palestinian refugees had to endure in neighboring countries since 1948. On the occupied lands, however, the situation is much worse: casual shootings, arbitrary detentions and a shameful discrimination is the order of the day. As we speak, thousands of Palestinian detainees have been held in the Israeli prisons for months and years, deprived from the due process of law.

And lastly, it is the human dignity that is being tested every day and on every square inch on the occupied territories including East Jerusalem. This test involves humiliating treatment at mushrooming checkpoints, raids to their private homes, randomly imposed military/administrative evacuation orders and, in the case of Gaza, collective detentions. We again strongly condemn this inhuman, illegal treatment, particularly the blockade on Gaza and call on the international community to press upon Israel to respect human dignity by ending Palestinian suffering on the occupied territories.

We believe that our voice will resonate stronger, when the State of Palestine joins this noble family of nations. I have said it at the General Assembly in New York last November when you voted overwhelmingly for its observer state status. I am saying it again: the State of Palestine must take its rightful place under the sun.

Mr. President,

Madame High Commissioner,


Today, racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, including the rising trend of Islamophobia, continue to present a permanent challenge to the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms. These scourges threaten peace and the harmonious fabric of modern societies. We condemn all sorts of incitement to hatred and religious discrimination against Muslims and people of other faiths.

The need to fight racism and xenophobia has become more essential than ever. Hostile acts with the concept of “the other” at their core are increasing. Deliberate attempts are made to offend members of religious or ethnic groups. There is also an increasing tendency to stigmatize people on the basis of race, color, descent and national or ethnic origin, and to use racist propaganda in politics.

We should all keep in mind that discrimination does not go away by itself. It must be challenged.

Turkey is proud to be a part of the active and constructive efforts to fight intolerance. Today, we stand in the beautiful hall named after the Alliance of Civilizations. This joint initiative by Turkey and Spain, exemplifying the principle tenets of the Human Rights Council, has as its primary mission to improve understanding among peoples across cultures and religions. It is an important force countering polarization and extremism. Prime Minister Erdoğan will attend its next forum to be held in Vienna this Wednesday, together with many heads of state and government.

We are also glad to have been a part of the effort in bringing about the historic consensual resolution 16/18 of this Council on combating intolerance based on religion. This action-oriented resolution outlines a consensus approach on the fight against incitement to violence, discrimination and intolerance on religious ground that could endanger peaceful co-existence. We hope that the Istanbul Process, initiated to ensure the effective implementation of Resolution 16/18, will continue to harness the engagement of all concerned to fight these scourges.


In conclusion, I would like to state once again that it has been an honor for me to address this august body today. In these turbulent times of change all over the globe, human rights have become the guiding light of the masses. It is the call for democracy and liberty that has become the call of the people. In this era, when the window of opportunity for change for the better is in sight, the Human Rights Council is needed more than ever. Turkey will continue to play an active role in ensuring that the Council makes its voice heard.

And on a final note, I would like to express my appreciation for the high-level event that will be held tomorrow on the "power of empowered women". Humanity can be empowered only if women also are fully empowered.

Thank you.