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

Photogallery US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid