BEIRUT

Middle East

U.N. renews war crimes investigation for another year

  • A woman throws rice on the coffin of her relative, killed by whom activists said were forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, during his funeral held in conjunction with a protest against the regime in Aleppo's al-Kallaseh neighborhood March 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Hosam Katan)

GENEVA: The U.N.’s top human rights body voted overwhelmingly to renew its war crimes investigation in Syria for another year Friday, as diplomatic efforts to revive negotiations between the government and opposition remain deadlocked.

By a vote of 32-4, with 11 abstentions, the 47-nation Human Rights Council adopted the resolution that again condemns the horrific violence in Syria’s 3-year-old civil war. Russia, China, Venezuela and Cuba voted against it.

U.K. Ambassador Karen Pierce told diplomats in Geneva that the resolution had three aims: to renew the investigation, condemn as strongly as possible violations of humanitarian and human rights laws, and support efforts to hold culprits accountable.

“We believe that this resolution represents a measured response to the worst human rights situation that this council has ever faced,” she said.

The head of the U.N. panel investigating human rights abuses in Syria last week provided the most specific information so far about the identities of suspected criminals, saying it had prepared four confidential lists of people and groups that it has identified as responsible for crimes including hostage-taking, torture and executions.

The head of the panel, Brazilian diplomat and scholar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, said the “perpetrators list” includes the heads of intelligence branches and detention facilities where torture occurs, officials overseeing airports from where barrel bomb attacks are planned and executed, and leaders of groups involved in attacking civilians.

The council established the investigation to probe all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 – whether by the government or the opposition – and to identify if possible those responsible, so they can be prosecuted.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 29, 2014, on page 10.
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