UNSC to meet on Syria ICC referral

May 13, 2014 - 4:16:37 am
Residents of the Old City of Homs return to their destroyed neighbourhood yesterday. Syrians streamed back into the city, picking through the remains of their homes and trying to come to terms with the destruction after rebel forces in the Old City were besieged for nearly two years before the deal to evacuate. 

UNITED NATIONS: France circulated a draft resolution to UN Security Council members yesterday that seeks to refer the three-year-old civil war in Syria to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The 15-member council is due to meet tomorrow to discuss the draft and it could be voted on within days, diplomats said.

But Moscow — a veto-wielding council member and ally of Syrian President Bashar 

Al Assad — has made clear it is against such a move. Russia, supported by China, has already blocked three resolutions that would have condemned Assad’s government, threatened sanctions and called for war crimes accountability.

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin has reinforced Moscow’s stance against referring Syria to The Hague-based court, telling Reuters: “Our position has not changed.”

More than 150,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict. Some 2.5 million people have fled abroad and 9 million people inside the country need help, including nearly 3.5 million who have no access to essential goods and services.

UN investigators said in March that they had expanded their list of suspected war criminals from both sides in the civil war and that the evidence was solid enough to prepare any court indictment.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay told the Security Council last month that human rights violations by Syrian government forces “far outweigh” those by armed opposition groups.

The United States agreed to support the French draft after ensuring that Israel would be protected from any possible prosecution at the International Criminal Court related to its occupation of the Golan Heights in Syria, UN diplomats said.

“We are grateful the US (has) overcome objections and constraints to support the referral of Syria to the ICC,” French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud posted on Twitter on Friday.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war and annexed the strategic plateau in a move the world has not recognised. Syrian troops are not allowed in an area of separation — monitored by UN peacekeepers — under a 1973 ceasefire formalised in 1974.

The draft resolution specifies that the situation to be referred to the court is “the widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and pro-government militias, as well as the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by non-State armed groups, all committed in the course of the ongoing conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.”

Eleven countries on the Security Council are members of the International Criminal Court. The United States, Russia, China and Rwanda 

are not.

REUTERS

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