At UN assembly, Denmark affirms responsibility to protect Syria

Denmark’s permanent representative to the UN says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step aside

NEW YORK — On the final day of the United Nations General Assembly General Debate, in New York, Denmark’s permanent representative to the UN, Carsten Staur, addressed the need for change in Syria, reaffirmed Denmark’s responsibility to international co-operation and highlighted its commitment to the rule of law.

Throughout the General Debate’s six days, representatives from more than 190 countries spoke upon a decided theme: the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means. Often underlined was the grave test Denmark and the world face in Syria.

One year ago, the situation within Syria was but eight months old with an insurgency in its infancy. Today, the bloodshed and death toll continue to grow, with estimates approaching 30,000. Staur reiterated Denmark’s growing concern for the humanitarian crises surrounding the plight of 250,000 refugees in camps as well as the one million internally displaced persons suffering within the country.

Staur said that Syria was not living up to its moral and political obligations and in one of the session’s boldest statements, declared outright that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lost all legitimacy and must step aside. Staur further recommended that gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by the Assad regime should pressure the UN Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Earlier during the UN General Assembly, Denmark’s foreign minister, Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), issued a statement outlining the importance of strengthening the “interrelationship between rule of law and generating economic growth, sustainable development, employment and better opportunities”. Søvndal was part of a bilateral initiative, ‘The Right to a Better Life’, which encouraged development assistance within nations using a rights-based approach.

In a September 24 high-level meeting, Søvndal presented Denmark’s unwavering commitment to the rule of law by asking parties to the ICC for continued political support. On behalf of the five Nordic countries, Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö called on all 193 member states of the UN to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC with respect to the 2002 Rome Statute. Currently, 122 states have ratified or acceded the statute, including Denmark.

While in New York, Helle Thorning-Schmidt visited the 9/11 Memorial (Photo: Scanpix)In his address to the UN General Assembly, Staur said that Denmark will pursue an effective follow-up of the high-level meeting within the coming months, concluding in saying that nations must find solutions to international situations before it is too late.

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) was also in New York during the UN General Assembly. On September 26, Thorning-Schmidt visited the 9/11 Memorial, where she left a bouquet of flowers and presented the 9/11 Memorial with a Danish flag that was recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center.