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UN Security Council has 'failed' Syria: rights chief

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights South African Navanethem Pillay, attends the opening of the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Feb. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone,Salvatore Di Nolfi)

GENEVA: The United Nations Security Council has "failed" to bring an end to the spiralling conflict in Syria, the UN's human rights chief said on Monday.

"The Security Council has so far failed with regard to Syria," Navi Pillay told ministers as the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council kicked off in Geneva.

Vuk Jeremic, the president of the UN General Assembly, joined Pillay in criticising the international community's inaction on Syria.

"For close to two years, the international community has failed to put a stop to the carnage," he said.

"The immediate cessation of hostilities should be our foremost priority."

Pillay said her office had pushed repeatedly for the Security Council to refer the conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

"Two important situations -- Darfur in 2008 and Libya in 2011 -- have been referred" by the Security Council," Pillay said, but it had not done the same for Syria, "despite the repeated reports of widespread or systematic crimes and violations by my office," and a wide range of other sources, she said.

The ICC can only probe war crimes if asked to by the Security Council.

In its latest report published earlier this month, a UN commission of inquiry found that war crimes by both government forces and rebels in Syria were spiralling amid an increasingly radicalised and sectarian conflict.

The UN estimates that more than 70,000 people have died in the two years since President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown began on anti-regime protesters.

The Security Council is split between Western members and Russia, a staunch Syrian ally, plus China.

China has backed Russia in vetoing Security Council resolutions that would have put greater pressure on Assad's regime. Beijing has also repeatedly urged dialogue to end the violence.

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter also reiterated Switzerland's call for the conflict to be referred to the ICC.

The world, he told the Human Rights Council, was witnessing a "human catastrophe, a humanitarian catastrophe" in Syria.

Switzerland last month filed a petition signed by 52 countries calling for the ICC to open a case on war crimes in Syria.

 

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