Independent report confirms need for Syria to be referred to ICC

Today’s International Commission of Inquiry report on Syria’s grave human rights situation is yet further evidence to prompt the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International said.

The report, released at the UN in Geneva today, confirmed there are reasonable grounds to believe that “limited quantities of toxic chemicals” were used during four separate attacks last March and April, although it affirms it has not been possible to “determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrators.”

It also calls on the Syrian authorities to allow full access to experts in order to reach conclusive findings on the issue.

“How many more reports need to be published on Syria for the world to wake up and take action to stop the bloodshed of civilians?” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“The UN Security Council must refer the situation to the International Criminal Court and insist that the Syrian authorities allow the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as humanitarian and human rights organizations, full access to the country.”

The Commission’s report also highlights the negative impact of the increased availability of weapons, which “leads to further civilian deaths and injures”.

It particularly refers to the mass killings in the cities of al-Bayda and Banias in May this year, saying that “evidence gathered indicates the perpetrators are Government-affiliated militia. The investigation continues”.

“Any efforts to document human rights abuses in Syria, as a first step towards bringing those responsible to justice, is seriously hampered by the government’s denial of access to many areas,” said Luther.

This is the Commission’s fifth report on Syria since 2011.

It covers human rights violations and abuses by all sides in the conflict, including unlawful killings, arbitrary detention and sexual violence, as well as other war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Tens of thousands of people have died as a result of the armed conflict that begun in Syria in March 2011, including at least 1,300 people who are reported to have died in custody.

Since early 2011, Amnesty International has been calling for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

While it is clear that the vast majority of war crimes and other gross violations continue to be committed by government forces, the organization’s research points to an escalation in abuses by armed opposition groups, which have increasingly resorted to hostage taking and to the torture and summary killing of soldiers, members of pro-government militias and civilians.