ICC war crime requests on Syria untimely: Russia

February 20, 2013 - 4:47:22 am

A rocket is launched by Free Syrian Army fighters towards Nairab military airport and the international airport, which are controlled by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad, in Aleppo, yesterday.

MOSCOW: A senior Russian official said yesterday that Moscow would not immediately back calls to refer suspected war criminals in Syria to the International Criminal Court for prosecution. UN investigators said on Monday that Syrian leaders they had identified as suspected war criminals should face the ICC. 

Because Syria is not party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, the only way the court can investigate the situation is if it receives a referral from the UN Security Council, where Moscow is a permanent and a veto-wielding member.

“We think both sides are responsible for that is happening in Syria in terms of human rights abuses,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said. “Attempts to put blame solely on the Syrian government are illegitimate because the opposition has also committed and is committing human rights violations.”

“Now, from our point of view, the priority task is to stop violence, start a political process ... To speak of necessity now to quickly put somebody in front of the ICC is not the path we should follow. At this stage it would be untimely and unconstructive,” he told a news conference.

The investigators on Monday urged the UN Security Council to “act urgently to ensure accountability” for violations, including murder and torture, committed by both sides. 

Moscow, a long-time ally of Damascus, has blocked three UN Security Council resolutions that would have increased pressure on President Bashar Al Assad to end the violence which has seen nearly 70,000 people killed in almost two years.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will discuss the situation in Syria when he meets Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and foreign ministers of Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt who are due in Moscow for talks today.