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Labour Foreign Affairs spokesperson Phil Goff says that an Amnesty International report released today adds to mounting evidence that the Syrian Government is responsible for the slaughter of its own people and gross violations of their human rights.
“International efforts to stop the murder of innocent people, including children, are not adequate. We cannot simply sit as observers and watch while crimes against humanity are being committed,” Phil Goff said.
“The United Nations, in the wake of the Rwanda and Srebrenica massacres, developed the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect. If a state cannot protect its citizens from, or worse is the perpetrator of, mass atrocities against them, the international community should act.
“Around 13,000 people have already died, including the despicable murder of children at Houla in the last few weeks, executed with their hands tied behind their backs. The world cannot continue to be spectators while war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed,” Phil Goff said.
“Amnesty International, which is widely respected for its reliability and impartiality, sets out steps which need to be taken immediately. The New Zealand Government should endorse and actively promote these actions.
“China and Russia should halt immediately all arms transfers and military assistance to the Syrian Government. I am told the Russian arms trade to Syria is worth well over $1 billion a year.
“The UN Observer mission needs to be increased in size, resourced to do its job, and get strong backing from the whole of the international community.
“An assets freeze against members of the regime and targeted economic sanctions should be imposed.
“The situation in Syria should be referred to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate and actively prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“In the event that all other approaches do not succeed, under the Responsibility to Protect military intervention must be considered.
“Refugees we met on the Syrian border a few weeks ago asked us what the world would do to help them. In the face of growing atrocities against large numbers of innocent people, we must have an answer to that question,” Phil Goff said.