Dozens of UN members urge immediate ICC referral of ‘desperate’ situation in Syria

Dozens of UN members urge immediate ICC referral of ‘desperate’ situation in SyriaThe UN Security Council must immediately refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in line with a request made this morning by dozens of UN member states, Amnesty International said.In a joint letter to the Council, Switzerland and 56 other states from all continents noted the Syrian authorities’ failure to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since March 2011. Since then, according to the letter, “the situation on the ground has only become more desperate, with attacks on the civilian population and the commission of atrocities having become almost the norm”. “For almost two years, the Security Council has stood by as crimes against humanity, as well as war crimes after the internal armed conflict began, have been committed with complete impunity against the Syrian people,” said José Luis Díaz, Amnesty International’s UN Representative in New York. “This must not be allowed to continue. A referral to the ICC must be made immediately to ensure that persons from all sides are investigated and – where there is sufficient admissible evidence – prosecuted for the most serious crimes under international law.”Amnesty International, too, began calling for the situation to be referred to the Prosecutor of the ICC as early as April 2011. Since the beginning of the unrest the organization has documented systematic as well as widespread human rights violations which amount to crimes against humanity.  The organization has also found evidence of serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, carried out by the Syrian authorities since the situation evolved into an internal armed conflict in most parts of the country. Armed opposition groups, including those associated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), have also been accused of committing violations of international humanitarian law, including potential war crimes, among them hostage-taking and the unlawful killings of captives.UN inactionA UN-backed independent international Commission of Inquiry also found evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also repeatedly called for the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC.But the Security Council has so far failed to act on such calls, only going as far as making statements that “those responsible for the violence should be held accountable.” Russia and China in particular have blocked resolutions which would have allowed greater international pressure on the Syrian authorities.  “The Security Council’s weak rhetoric on Syria has failed to achieve any justice for victims, and has given human rights violators free rein to carry on committing serious crimes under international law without facing any consequences,” said Díaz. “The continued failure to act would send a disturbing message that the international community has lost the will to protect civilians from harm in conflict.”In addition to the ICC referral, Amnesty International has repeatedly called on all states to exercise universal jurisdiction over those suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.