U.N. Official Wants Syria to Face War Crimes Court ; as Report Shows Violence Increasing, the Security Council Is Urged to Act

By Cumming-Bruce, Nick | International Herald Tribune, February 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

U.N. Official Wants Syria to Face War Crimes Court ; as Report Shows Violence Increasing, the Security Council Is Urged to Act


Cumming-Bruce, Nick, International Herald Tribune


The official spoke as a U.N. Human Rights Council commission investigating Syria, of which she is a member, said in a report that violence in the country was worsening.

The United Nations Security Council should refer Syria to the International Criminal Court to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and other abuses committed during nearly two years of conflict in that country, a U.N. human rights investigator said Monday.

"Now, really, it's time -- it's time," said the investigator, Carla Del Ponte, the former chief prosecutor for international tribunals on the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. "We are pressuring the international community to act because it's time to act."

Ms. Del Ponte was speaking as a U.N. Human Rights Council commission investigating Syria, of which she is a member, said Monday in a report that violence in the country was worsening, "aggravated by increasing sectarianism" and radicalized by the increasing presence of foreign fighters. It said the conflict was also "becoming more militarized because of the proliferation of weapons and types of weapons used."

The panel's report, detailing evidence of war crimes and other abuses in the six months ending in mid-January, said, "The issue of accountability for those responsible for international crimes deserves to be raised in a more robust manner to counter the pervasive sense of impunity in the country."

The top U.N. human rights official, Navi Pillay, has also urged that Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court, in The Hague. The authority to make such a referral, however, lies exclusively with the Security Council or the country concerned.

"It's incredible the Security Council doesn't take a decision," Ms. Del Ponte said. A referral must be made urgently, she said, "because crimes are continuing and the number of victims is increasing day to day -- justice must be done."

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government.

The report is due to be discussed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March when member states look likely to extend the commission's mandate. Diplomats in Geneva point out that the panel represents the only U.N.-mandated machinery shedding a spotlight on abuses and that its reports provide the most comprehensive and factual account of how Syria's conflict is being waged.

In their report, based on 445 interviews, the investigators said they had found credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by government and opposition forces in the six months to mid-January. …

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