News / Middle East

UN Rights Council to Continue Investigating Syrian Abuses

The blood of a Syrian civilian, killed by a Syrian Army sniper, is seen on the sidewalk outside Dar el-Shifa Hospital in Aleppo, September 27, 2012.
The blood of a Syrian civilian, killed by a Syrian Army sniper, is seen on the sidewalk outside Dar el-Shifa Hospital in Aleppo, September 27, 2012.
Selah Hennessy
An investigation into alleged war crimes in Syria will continue for at least six more months after the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned violations by government forces and rebel fighters.

The council's Commission of Inquiry (COI) says it is collecting a body of evidence that points to war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria from both sides.

It blames government forces and militias aligned with them for the majority of abuses but also found abuses by rebel forces.  It says it has detailed the names of individuals and units responsible for alleged crimes.

  • Damaged buildings in the northern city of Aleppo following months of clashes and battles between Syrian rebels and government forces, September 28, 2012.
  • A Syrian rebel fighter unloads an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) from a pick up during fighting with government troops in the old city of Aleppo, September 28, 2012.
  • Free Syrian Army fighter scans for targets from a building in Aleppo, Syria, September 27, 2012.
  • A member of the Free Syrian Army carries his wounded comrade who was shot during clashes with Syrian Army forces as others shout for help in Aleppo, Syria, September 27, 2012.
  • A Syrian man is comforted after the death of his brother, who witnesses say was shot by a Syrian Army sniper, outside Dar El Shifa Hospital in Aleppo, Syria, September 27, 2012.
  • A member of the Free Syrian Army open fire from his machine gun during clashes with Syrian Army forces in Aleppo, September 27, 2012.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters walk down stairs in a damaged building in Aleppo, Syria, September 26, 2012.

Seeking justice

The United States ambassador to the Human Rights Council, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, said it's critical that justice prevail.

"The work or the COI is important because as they continue to document the names of individuals responsible for these crimes and violations," she said. "They help ensure that this will not be a case where impunity prevails, but rather that those responsible for these crimes against the Syrian people will face justice and accountability."

Deaths Across Syria, map dated September 26, 2012Deaths Across Syria, map dated September 26, 2012
x
Deaths Across Syria, map dated September 26, 2012
Deaths Across Syria, map dated September 26, 2012
Friday’s vote means the independent expert panel will have another six months to investigate abuses in Syria. The commission’s staff and resources are also set to be boosted.

The resolution was presented by Morocco and was supported by 41 member states.  China, Russia, and Cuba opposed the resolution and three other members abstained.

Syria’s ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui rejected Friday’s resolution.

He says the draft resolution does not reflect the reality on the ground.  It is based on accusations which are, in many cases he says, purely fictitious.

Panel investigators have been unable to enter Syria and have carried out their investigations in neighboring countries, including interviewing Syrian refugees.

Possible prosecutions

Nadim Shehadi, an expert on Syria at the London-based research group Chatham House, told VOA that the investigations could lead to prosecutions.

“It's very significant because the Human Rights Council is in a way a preparation for further international action, which would involve the International Criminal Court (ICC)," said Shehadi.

But Shehadi says the international community may not be ready to take what he calls that “final step” for international court intervention.  He says that like Kofi Annan, the former U.N. envoy to Syria who resigned after failing to resolve the crisis, some in the international community still hope for productive dialogue.

"The final step to go to the ICC would signify to the regime that all lines of communication with it are now cut," he said. "There is no going back.  There is no possibility of re-engagement with the regime.  And I think that is the hesitation, because in the international policy there is still a residual of the 'Annan plan,' which is engagement with the regime and dialogue with the regime.”

Still, court involvement is complicated.  Syria has never ratified a treaty that established the ICC. 

The treaty does say that the U.N. Security Council can initiate an ICC investigation.  But two of Syria’s allies, China and Russia, sit on the 15-member council and would have the power to veto an ICC investigation into alleged war crimes in Syria.

Both nations have blocked initiatives in the U.N. Security Council to further punish the Syrian regime over its 18-month-long crackdown on dissent and opposition forces.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid