DW talked to Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, head of UN commission investigating human rights violations in Syria. In a second report, the commission concluded only dialogue can end the crisis.
Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro of Brazil chairs a UN commission investigating human rights violations in Syria. On Thursday, he delivered a 72-page report to UN human rights officials in Geneva.
DW: Your commission has concluded that only negotiations can bring an end to violence in Syria? Are there no other options?
Paulo Pinheiro: There is no military option. If there was one, this conflict would already be over. It was one year ago that the first demonstration took place, We have to forget any ideas of imposing a no-fly zone and doing other things that worked in Libya. Syria is not Libya.
The international community now has to gather all parties at a virtual table. In South and Central America we have gathered abundant experience in negotiations, it's not like we had to start from scratch. In the Algerian War, France negotiated with Algeria without stopping military action, and North Vietnam also negotiated with the US without a prior armistice.
I am not suggesting that violence in Syria should not be stopped - of course it should. Especially in light of what is happening in Homs. But it is an illusion to think that there is any other solution apart from engaging in dialogue. Humanitarian assistance can only work, when we negotiate first, which is what the International Committee of the Red Cross is already doing. In our report we make very clear that there is no way other than negotiations.
Would putting an end to violence in Syria mean putting an end to President Bashar al-Assad's regime?
You can't start negotiations by demanding an end to the Assad regime. That's just not how negotiations work. If that was a possibility, the Arab League's second proposal would have been implemented. It is quite obvious that we first have to start talks and then have to see what is happening. I have no recipe as to how these talks can proceed. The only very clear statement that the independent international commission says is that there is no military solution to this crisis.
But it appears that it has been very difficult to talk to the Syrian regime. And the commission which you chaired was not received by the government.
It is our mission to negotiate. Throughout this year, we have been in contact with the Syrian government - via data, correspondence, and via the UN mission in Geneva. That was not the case with the last report published in November 2011. And the hope always remains that the government changes its attitude.
How was it possible to gather information without actually having been in Syria?
It was not an easy task. It would have been much easier had we been allowed into the country. We interviewed Syrians outside of Syria, both Syrians that are critical of the regime and those that are supportive. We have talked to deserters and to members of the opposition - inside and outside of Syria. We conducted these interviews via Skype, which is - for reasons that I don't understand - not being censored.
We also used information from international organizations like videos and satellite images. Military advisors helped us navigate through this material. Our report relies on a very solid set of information leading us to the conclusions we drew.
Whose names are on the list you compiled of people who violated human rights in Syria?
We have submitted to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights a list with names and institutions who we are convinced have committed grave crimes against humanity. This list is confidential. Those who get to see the list belong to a competent organization or - in future - to the Syrian government, once it decides to proceed with an investigation. After all, the primary responsibilty for investigating these crimes lies with the Syrian government.
Interview: Nádia Pontes/ ar
Editor: Rob Mudge