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MENAFN - Arab News - 19/02/2013

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(MENAFN - Arab News) UN investigators said yesterday they had identified Syrians in "leadership positions" who may be responsible for war crimes, along with units accused of carrying them out.

Both government forces and armed insurgents are committing war crimes, including killings and torture, though the government camp carried more blame in a conflict spreading terror among civilians, they said in a latest report based on 445 interviews with victims and witnesses abroad.
The International Criminal Court should be called in to probe war crimes in Syria, former UN prosecutor Carla del Ponte said yesterday.

"The international community - and the UN Security Council - must take the decision to refer this to justice," del Ponte, the member of a UN-mandated commission of inquiry on the Syria conflict, told reporters.

"We suggest the International Criminal Court. We can't decide, but we are pressuring the international community to act, because it's time to act," she said after releasing a report by the commission on the situation in Syria after almost two years of fighting.

The straight-talking del Ponte said she was dumbfounded that the international community had failed to call the perpetrators to account. "It's time to react. After two years, it's incredible that the Security Council hasn't made a decision," she said. "Justice must be imminent, urgent. The number of victims is increasing day to day. Justice must be done."

The commission of inquiry was set up in 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council.

It is due next month to submit a confidential list of individuals, military and militia units allegedly involved in war crimes to the UN's human rights office, but is not planning to make the list public. Del Ponte gained renown for her tough stance as the UN's top prosecutor investigating war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

European Union foreign ministers are wrestling with the divisive issue of whether to ease the arms embargo against Syria so military aid can be funneled to the opposition fighting President Bashar Assad.

An EU official said Britain is lobbying to ease the embargo so munitions could flow, but only to the fighters. But several foreign ministers said on their way into the meeting that they were opposed to that. That view is bolstered by the new report that said Syria's civil war is becoming increasingly sectarian and the behavior of both sides is growing more and more radicalized. The report urged the international community to curb the supply of weapons, and anti-government forces to part with foreign fighters.

Several foreign ministers said they were placing their hopes on the mediation efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria. "There is no shortage of arms in Syria," Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said. "With more arms, there are more killed, more atrocities." The British Foreign and Commonwealth office said in a statement that its objective remains a diplomatic solution. But the statement did not explicitly confirm or deny that the UK wanted the embargo altered to get arms to the rebels.

"The UK believes international action so far has fallen short," it said. "In the absence of a diplomatic breakthrough, it is right that we continue to consider all options to protect civilians and to assist the National Coalition and other opposition groups opposed to extremism."

 






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