​War crimes proof in Syria enough for indictment: UN

March 19, 2014 - 5:22:10 am

GENEVA: UN investigators said yesterday they had expanded their list of suspected war criminals from both sides in Syria’s civil war and the evidence was solid enough to prepare any indictment.

The UN inquiry has identified individuals, military units and security agencies as well as insurgent groups suspected of committing abuses such as torture and bombing civilian areas, it said in its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Some 20 investigators have carried out 2,700 interviews with victims, witnesses and defectors in the region and by Skype in Syria, but have never been allowed to enter the country now in its fourth year of an increasingly sectarian conflict.

However, despite the accumulation of evidence, diplomats say it is unlikely Syria would be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) that tries war crimes suspects in The Hague any time soon.

As Syria has not signed the Rome statutes setting up the ICC, the UN Security Council would need to make the referral. 

Russia, supported by China, has shielded its ally Syria throughout the war, vetoing three UN resolutions that would have condemned President Bashar Al Assad’s government and threatened it with possible sanctions.

“We do not lack information on crimes or even on perpetrators. What we lack is a means by which to achieve justice and accountability but this is not in our powers,” Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the UN commission of inquiry on Syria, told a news conference.