BEIRUT: France will try to win approval from the United Nations Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court in The Hague with a resolution designed to navigate American sensitivities, according to media reports.
Reports published this week in The New York Times and Foreign Policy magazine said that Paris would circulate the draft next week to members of the Security Council.
While Damascus allies Russia and China would likely veto such a move, the reports said that by doing so, they would further isolate themselves on the world stage as countenancing the grave human rights abuses that have taken place during the 3-year-old war.
However, the French draft is also designed to deal with the fact that Washington has never ratified the Rome Statute that established the ICC. The U.S. has always avoided any commitments that could see U.S. military or other personnel charged with war crimes in a global tribunal.
The reports said the draft relies on a narrow definition of the conflict, specifying it as one pitting the Damascus government and allied militias against the armed opposition, to avoid involving Israel, which occupies Syria’s Golan Heights.
The U.S. is leery of any referral of Syria to the ICC that could end up broaching the subject of Israel’s occupation of Syrian territory.
The reports said the French resolution exempts officials and personnel from countries that have not ratified the Rome Statute, except for Syria. The Security Council’s approval is required to open an investigation because Syria is not an ICC member.
They described the move by Paris as a delicate diplomatic maneuver, as it seeks to allay the fears of Washington while representing an attempt to corner Moscow into voting “yes” or abstaining.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 09, 2014, on page 8.