Earlier today, I spoke before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, where I joined many other nations gathered to demand an end to the Assad government's outrageous and ongoing crimes against the people of Syria. Syrian civilians and international journalists risk their lives daily to inform the world of the horrendous scale of slaughter and suffering, and the Commission of Inquiry launched by the UN Human Rights Council last August concluded that the Syrian government forces have perpetrated crimes against humanity. No one can deny that Bashar al-Assad and his regime are waging a brutal campaign of slaughter, bombardment, torture, and arrest that already has murdered thousands of women, men, and children, with more killed each day.
As I said earlier today, the Syrian government must immediately halt its attacks on civilians, withdraw its military and security forces to their barracks, and release the many civilians, including journalists, whom it has detained arbitrarily. The government must grant humanitarian access to the country without delay, allowing much-needed food, water, and medical assistance to be delivered to the Syrian people. All states should heed the call of conscience, and halt any financial or other support to the Syrian government, including arms or materiel transfers, and must back UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan.
The way forward is clear. In the coming weeks, the UN Human Rights Council must extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, so that it can continue to investigate and document the gross human rights violations being committed in Syria, providing evidence to support accountability for the senior Syrian officials who have planned and perpetrated these atrocities. Finally, Assad must go. There must be a Syrian-led democratic political transition that meets the long-suppressed aspirations of the Syrian people.
The international community supports these essential steps as the solution to the violence in Syria. They are at the core of the plan the Arab League has put forward. They were further endorsed in Tunis last week by the Group of Friends of Syria. They were backed by an overwhelming majority in the General Assembly resolution adopted on February 16, 2012. And although thirteen members of the Security Council supported these steps earlier this month, indefensible vetoes by two permanent members gave Assad cover to accelerate his war on the Syrian people.
Syrian women, men, and children face murder and starvation at the hands of their own government, simply because they demand respect for the universal human rights the Human Rights Council exists to protect and advance. Let us demonstrate today that the world stands united with the people of Syria, for it is they who represent their country's future, just as Assad and his regime represent its past.