UNSC/Syria: Russia’s vetoes block overwhelming consensus to ensure justice and accountability

22 May, 2014 | Press Releases

Brussels – Rome – New York, 22 May 2014

After more than three years of violent and bloody repression and the deaths of more than 150,000 people, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was finally called today to vote on a resolution – submitted by France and sponsored by 62 UN Member States – calling to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Out of the fifteen UNSC Member States, thirteen members including France, the USA and the United Kingdom, three of the Security Council’s five permanent members, voted in favour; Russia used its veto to oppose the resolution.
Syria is not a State Party to the ICC. The Court therefore has no jurisdiction over crimes committed in Syria unless there is a referral from the Security Council or Syria itself refers the situation.

Statement by Alison Smith, Legal Counsel and Director of the International Criminal Justice Program of No Peace Without Justice:

“No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT) welcome the fact that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has formally been seized to vote on a resolution calling to refer the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic as of March 2011 to the International Criminal Court (ICC). We are gratified by France’s continued diplomatic efforts to put the resolution before the Council and welcome the United States’ backing of the text.

“The support expressed for the resolution by all Security Council members with the exception of Russia, signals that a growing number of members of the international community are willing to take action aimed at ending impunity and preparing for the prosecution of those who bear the greatest responsibility for the appalling atrocities that have been committed against the civilian population in Syria. Russia, by obstructing the resolution’s adoption, bear the shameful responsibility of impeding action to address ongoing crimes and abuses and to ensure that their perpetrators will be held into account.

“For the past three years, Syria has witnessed crimes against humanity, war crimes and other gross human rights violations, which continue to be perpetrated with increasing frequency and total impunity. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, NPWJ and the NRPTT have consistently advocated that being firm on accountability is the best way to serve the cause of peace and security in Syria. It is also crucial to allow a meaningful a political process that, after 40 years of dictatorship, could enable democratic values, liberal institutions and open government to exist and flourish within the country.

“So far, all of the diplomatic initiatives launched by the international community have failed to find a solution to the Syrian crisis, let alone to stop the bloodshed. A referral to the ICC would have signalled decisively that the international community is finally stepping in to help break the cycle of impunity that is ravaging Syria and in encouraging the fighters to abide by international conventions and the laws of war, particularly those that protect civilians. Sadly, today the international community lost yet another opportunity to show its cohesion through taking responsive, responsible and reliable action to support the efforts of the Syrian people to secure justice, the rule of law, and protection of their human rights. Russia is to be blamed for this failure and should think very carefully about whether continuing their protection of President Assad is really worth the blood that continues to stain their hands”.

NPWJ’s Syria Project on Justice and Accountability
NPWJ project aims at reducing the expectation and rewards of impunity and at building a culture of accountability. The purpose is to equip citizens to demand accountability and justice for violations taking place on a daily basis for the past two and a half years and, at the same time, to equip the judiciary and legal profession to answer that demand. The mainstay of the project is a series of advocacy and training events, which are being held in Gaziantep, Turkey, near the Syrian border, with Syrian judges, lawyers and civil society activists from Syria who can bring the skills and (perhaps more importantly) aspirations for justice back to their work and their constituents inside Syria. The long-term goal of this project is to promote democracy and human rights protection through incorporating justice and accountability in decision-making on conflict resolution and stability, development, and reconstructing planning in Syria. The project’s strategic objective is to support Syrian civil society playing an active role on justice and accountability issues, including advocacy and documenting human rights violations, including receiving, gathering, collecting, collating, processing and securely storing information, documentation and materials and analyse it for the purpose of establishing what happened and reconstructing decision-making processes that resulted in violations international humanitarian and human rights law in Syria since March 2011.

For further information, please contact Alison Smith on asmith@npwj.org or +32-(0)2-548-3912 or Nicola Giovannini on ngiovannini@npwj.org or +32-(0)2-548-3915.