Middle East

UN should refer Syria to ICC: EU states

The European Union flag fly amongst European Union member countries' national flags in front of the European Parliament on October 12, 2012 in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AFP PHOTO/FREDERICK FLORIN)

VIENNA: The United Nations should refer the crisis in Syria to the International Criminal Court, several EU members urged in a joint letter released by Austria's foreign ministry Friday.

"Horrendous crimes have already been committed during the conflict in Syria, but there have been no consequences for the perpetrators," the foreign ministers of Austria, Denmark, Ireland and Slovenia wrote in the letter.

"In view of the grave concerns mentioned above, and the lack of prosecution in Syria, we call on the UN Security Council to urgently refer the situation in Syria to the ICC," they added.

"A referral to the ICC would make clear to every fighter on all sides of the conflict that the gravest crimes will eventually be punished," whether they are rebels or government forces, the ministers went on.

The joint statement was published by US network CNN and handed to all UN member states on Thursday, the Austrian ministry noted.

The ministers -- Michael Spindelegger, Villy Sovndal, Eamon Gilmore and Karl Erjavec -- said reports about chemical weapons in Syria as well as an attack on UN peacekeepers that wounded four Austrians in November, and imminent clashes between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebels in Damascus, had increased the need for action.

Since Syria is not a party to the ICC, the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal, a UN Security Council referral is needed for the court to look into crimes committed in the now 22-month conflict, they said.

"All those that commit or order war crimes and crimes against humanity will be held accountable. This principle cannot and will not be negotiated," they said.

The United Nations estimates more than 60,000 people have died since the March 2011 outbreak of the revolt, with over 600,000 Syrians registered as refugees in the region.





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