February 18, 2013
UN Rights Inquiry Alleges Syrian War Crimes
A member of the U.N.'s Commission of Inquiry on the Syria conflict is calling for the International Criminal Court to probe allegations of war crimes in Syria.
Speaking to reporters Monday following the release of the team's latest report, investigator Carla del Ponte said that the time has come for the U.N. Security Council to bring about justice.
The commission's report accuses both the Syrian military and armed rebels of possible war crimes, including massacring civilians. But it stresses that the government is the main perpetrator, committing arbitrary arrests, murder, torture and rape.
The Syrian government and rebel groups did not comment on Monday's report.
The U.N. Commission of Inquiry is due next month to submit a confidential list of individuals and units allegedly involved in war crimes to the U.N. human rights office, but is not planning to make the list public.
Any decision to refer the Syria conflict to the ICC lies with the U.N. Security Council, which is deeply divided between Western nations, and China and Russia, which have blocked action.
On Monday, European Union governments extended for three months sanctions against Syria, but said they would amend them to provide greater "non-lethal support and technical assistance" to help protect civilians.
The decision was reached at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels, where Britain lobbied to ease an arms embargo so rebels could gain access to military aid in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad. Most foreign ministers opposed the request, with Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn stating "there is no shortage of arms in Syria."
The French news agency, citing a pro-Damascus Lebanese newspaper, quoted Mr. Assad as telling the paper he is confident his military will defeat the rebels.
The published comments came as Syrian rebels reportedly captured a key army checkpoint on the main road to the airport in the northern city of Aleppo, the latest win in their battle to secure strategic airports in the area.