UN to investigate possible war crimes in Syria

World Today

The U.N. Security Council votes unanimously to adopt a resolution concerning humanitarian aid in Syria at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The U.N. General Assembly voted Wednesday to establish an investigative body that will assist in documenting and prosecuting the most serious violations of international law in Syria, including possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The 193-member world body adopted a resolution by a vote of 105 to 15 with 52 abstentions over strenuous objections from Syria and close ally Russia who accused the assembly of interfering in the work of the Security Council, which is responsible for issues of international peace and security.

Liechtenstein’s U.N. Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, who sponsored the resolution, said vetoes in the Security Council, by Russia, “have led to inaction at the expense of the people of Syria.”

“Our inaction tends to signal that war crimes and crimes against humanity are condoned and have no consequences,” he said.

Wenaweser said this was why the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, had to address the issue of accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws since March 2011, when the Syrian conflict began.

Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari called the resolution illegal, “a flagrant interference in the affairs of a U.N. member state,” and “a direct threat to a solution” of the five and a half year conflict which has killed more than 250,000 people.

China’s deputy permanent representative to the U.N. weighed in, saying “to solve the problem of impunity should be on the premise of respect for the judicial sovereignty of the relevant country and it should also coordinate with the overall situation to solve the problem politically. Any actions taken by the international community must respect the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Syria, must play a positive and constructive role in promoting a political solution to the Syrian crisis, and must be helpful in safeguarding the unity of the UN member states to avoid complicating the issue.”

The resolution takes “one meaningful step,” Wenaweser said, in establishing a new body “to closely coordinate” with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which was established by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council. It said earlier this year that war crimes are “rampant” in Syria.

It asks the secretary-general to arrange for the speedy establishment of the independent body, which will initially be funded by voluntary contributions, and urges all U.N. member states, especially parties to the conflict, to cooperate with it.

This story is by The Associated Press.