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France asks UN to refer Syrian war to ICC

May 12, 2014

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — France has asked the U.N. Security Council to refer the war in Syria to the International Criminal Court for investigation of possible crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The proposed resolution, circulated to all council members Monday and obtained by The Associated Press, condemns the “widespread violation” of human rights and international humanitarian law by Syrian authorities and pro-government militias as well as abuses and violations by “non-state armed groups” during the last three years.

It takes note of reports by an independent commission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate rights violations in Syria. In its latest report last September, the commission said at least eight massacres had been perpetrated in Syria by President Bashar Assad’s regime and supporters, and one by rebels in the previous year and a half.

A confidential list of suspected criminals is being produced by the commission and kept under lock and key by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

The draft notes statements by Pillay and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that crimes against humanity and war crimes are likely to have been committed during the Syrian conflict. It also notes Pillay’s repeated calls to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court, the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal.

The draft resolution would “refer the situation in Syria” since March 2011 to the ICC prosecutor, noting the violations by all parties.

Several diplomats said Russia, Syria’s closest ally and a permanent council member, is likely to veto the resolution. The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the council has not yet discussed the draft, said discussions are expected this week and France is pressing for a vote next week.

Syria is not a state party to the Rome statute that established the International Criminal Court so the only way it can be referred to The Hague, Netherlands-based tribunal is by the Security Council. The council has previously referred conflicts in Darfur and Libya to the ICC.

The United States is also not a party to the Rome statute and the draft resolution includes a provision similar to others sought by Washington in the past on matters related to the ICC.

It states that foreigners in Syria, from countries that are not a party to the Rome Statute, would be subject “to the exclusive jurisdiction” of their home state for any alleged acts related to operations in Syria — unless the state waives jurisdiction. That means any American in Syria accused by the court would be tried in the United States.

The draft also states that all expenses involved in referring, investigating and prosecuting anyone involved in the Syrian conflict will be paid by parties to the Rome statute — not by the United Nations.

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