UN prosecutor calls for war crimes probe

2013-02-18 16:21
Syrian refugee children peer from a tent supplied by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in al-Marj, in the eastern Lebanese Bekaa Valley. (File, AFP)

Syrian refugee children peer from a tent supplied by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in al-Marj, in the eastern Lebanese Bekaa Valley. (File, AFP)

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Geneva - The International Criminal Court should be called in to probe war crimes in Syria, former UN prosecutor Carla del Ponte said on Monday.

"The international community - and the UN Security Council - must take the decision to refer this to justice," del Ponte, the member of a UN-mandated commission of inquiry on the Syria conflict, told reporters.

"We suggest the International Criminal Court. We can't decide, but we are pressuring the international community to act, because it's time to act," she said after releasing a report by the commission on the situation in Syria after almost two years of fighting.

The report said that both Syrian state forces and rebels were committing war crimes, though it said the government camp carried more blame.

The decision to refer the conflict to the International Criminal Court lies with the UN Security Council, where there are deep splits between Western members and Russia, a longstanding ally of Syria's regime, plus China.

'Victims increasing day to day'

China has backed Russia in vetoing Security Council resolutions that would have put greater pressure on President Bashar Assad's regime. Beijing has also repeatedly urged dialogue to end the violence.

The straight-talking del Ponte said she was dumbfounded that the international community had failed to call the perpetrators to account.

"It's time to react. After two years, it's incredible that the Security Council hasn't made a decision," she said. "Justice must be imminent, urgent. The number of victims is increasing day to day. Justice must be done."

The commission of inquiry was set up in 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council.

It is due next month to submit a confidential list of individuals, military and militia units allegedly involved in war crimes to the UN's human rights office, but is not planning to make the list public.

Del Ponte is renowned for her tough stance as the UN's top prosecutor investigating war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

"I'm not the prosecutor dealing with this case. Unfortunately," she said, adding: "Justice is a contribution for peace and reconciliation."

Read more on:    un  |  bashar assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict
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