States urge Council to refer Syria to ICC

Flag_of_Syria.svgWith the death toll in Syria exceeding 60,000 persons, and as fighting there nears the 2-year mark, some U.N. member states have joined calls for a Security Council referral of the situation to International Criminal Court.

The latest call came in a joint letter that the foreign ministers of Austria, Ireland, Slovenia, and Denmark sent to the Council. Their statement, “Time to refer Syria crisis to ICC,” was published at today. Excerpts:

‘As we know from the work of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, horrendous crimes have already been committed during the conflict in Syria, but there have been no consequences for the perpetrators. It is precisely for situations like this that the international community established the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) ten years ago. This independent judicial body can provide justice when a state is unable or unwilling to prosecute the most terrible crimes. Since Syria is not a party to the ICC Statute, jurisdiction of the Court requires a decision of the U.N. Security Council. In view of the grave concerns mentioned above, and the lack of prosecution in Syria, we call on the U.N. Security Council to urgently refer the situation in Syria to the ICC.’

They noted that their initiative joined the calls of others. They cited U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, and further dovetailed with “Conclusions of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council on December 10, 2012 and the Swiss initiative at the United Nations,” and LeMonde reports that more than 53 unnamed countries support such a referral. The statement of the 4 diplomats continued:

‘[A] referral to the ICC would make clear to every fighter on all sides of the conflict that the gravest crimes will eventually be punished. We owe this not only to the victims and their families, but also to future generations of Syrians who want to live in a free state founded on the principles of peace and justice. And we owe it to the future of humankind: After thousands of years of sometimes gruesome history, human civilization must no longer accept impunity for the most atrocious crimes.’

Absent from their letter was a call for full Council support; specifically, as discussed here and here (pp. 25-46), funding and other resources omitted in prior referrals on Darfur and Libya.

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