U.N.'s rights chief says Assad should face war crimes probe

LONDON Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:23am IST

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) waves to his supporters after speaking at the Opera House in Damascus January 6, 2013. REUTERS/Sana/Files

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) waves to his supporters after speaking at the Opera House in Damascus January 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Sana/Files

Related Topics

LONDON (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights chief said on Saturday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be probed for war crimes and called for immediate action by the international community, including possible military intervention.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, repeated her call for the Syrian president to be referred to the International Criminal Court for the actions of his forces in the civil war which the U.N. says has left almost 70,000 dead in 22 months of fighting.

Asked if Assad should be investigated for war crimes, she told Britain's Channel 4 News: "He's not but he should be.

"This is my strong call that I made 18 months ago. Based on the evidence, I said crimes against humanity and Syria's war crimes are being committed by President Assad's forces, his security forces, and other groups allied to him," she said.

"There should be a referral by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court. I would describe (Assad's actions) as evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes, against his own people."

World powers are divided on how to stop the escalating violence in Syria and the Security Council is unlikely to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is not an official U.N. body.

Permanent Security Council members Russia and China have acted as Syria's protector on the council by repeatedly blocking Western efforts to take stronger U.N. action - such as sanctions - against the Syrian government.

Pillay said the Security Council had a range of tools to keep warring sides apart to allow negotiations, and said action was needed urgently.

"I'm not arguing for any specific intervention," she said. "It's an intergovernmental decision on what kind of action - intervention, peacekeeping, military intervention or a referral to the International Criminal Court. We urge that action be taken immediately. "

However, she acknowledged that after the U.N. intervention in Libya in 2011 which led to the ousting of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, some members of the Security Council were loathe to use force again, in case it led to regime change and "so acting out the interests of one or other government".

"This is what I'm hearing in the Security Council," she said.

"If there is doubt and hesitation it is because people are assessing the value of military intervention in places like Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. That it could become a long, drawn out war with no guarantees that civilians will not be harmed in that process." (Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Jason Webb)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

KOREA FERRY TRAGEDY

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Crisis

Three dead in east Ukraine, Putin warns of "abyss".  Full Article | Related Story 

Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Outbreak

Death toll from Guinea Ebola outbreak rises to 122.  Full Article 

Putin Talks

Putin Talks

Runaway spy Snowden is surprise guest on Putin phone-in.  Full Article 

Missing Airliner

Missing Airliner

Search for Malaysia Airlines jet refocuses on drone scans of seafloor  Full Article 

U.S.-Japan Summit

U.S.-Japan Summit

Obama, Abe to battle negative images at U.S.-Japan summit.  Full Article 

Blogger Released

Blogger Released

China releases blogger on bail, jails another amid rumour crackdown   Full Article 

China Pollution

China Pollution

Beijing's bid to move polluting firms watched warily in nearby regions  Full Article 

Holy Week

Holy Week

The Christian faithful celebrate Holy Week, the week which leads into Easter Sunday.  Slideshow 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage