UN rights chief condemns use of chemical weapons
GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. human rights chief said Monday there is little doubt that chemical weapons were used in Syria, but kept clear of saying who was responsible and warned against military action.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay spoke two days ahead of an expected update from a U.N. panel probing for war crimes and other human rights abuses in Syria. Unlike a hotly awaited report by U.N. chemical inspectors, the panel is expected to weigh in on who bears responsibility for abuses, including chemical attacks.
Pillay noted that when she first urged action to end the Syrian crisis two years ago, some 2,600 Syrians had died in the conflict. Now the number of dead is over 100,000.
“This appalling situation cries out for international action, yet a military response or the continued supply of arms risk igniting a regional conflagration, possibly resulting in many more deaths and even more widespread misery,” she warned.
Separately, one of the four members of the U.N. panel on Syria, Carla del Ponte, told the Swiss Press Club that she also “can’t see a military intervention working.”
Del Ponte, a Swiss former war crimes prosecutor, said the panel’s human rights probe in Syria has updated the list confidential names of suspected criminals that Pillay keeps under lock and key.
“It’s a long list,” del Ponte said.
Del Pone said the panel has found four locations where its members are suspicious of chemical weapons use. The probe hasn’t been given access to work in Syria, so it has instead relied mainly on evidence gathered from among 2 million Syrian refugees.
Iran’s ambassador, Mohsen Naziri Asl, did not directly address the issue of chemical weapons but said his nation agrees with Pillay on the dangers of sparking a deeper regional crisis.
“Military action risks igniting a regional war,” he told the council. “The only way out of this situation is the immediate negotiation end the conflict.”