The letter cites ... reports of Syria using chemical weapons as reasons for immediate action.
In the past few days an international movement has taken shape to demand that the Syrian conflict be referred to the International Criminal Court for war crimes prosecution.
I reported on the call
by the foreign ministers of Austria, Slovenia, Ireland and Denmark to refer this matter to the ICC on Thursday, before news of this letter emerged.
Since Syria is not a member of the ICC, this can only be done by an United Nations Security Council resolution.
Now more than 50 countries, including UNSC members Britain and France, stand together and have signed on to a draft letter initiated by Switzerland, calling upon the UNSC to refer the Syrian conflict to the ICC. This letter will be submitted on Monday.
As it stands now, the United States stands with Russia and China in failing to sign the letter.
This should not be the stand of the United States.
Tell President Obama to sign the letter!
The Associated Press has this story:
UN urged to refer Syria to war crimes court
8:59 PM PT:
Updated: 9:08 pm, Sat Jan 12, 2013.
More than 50 countries have backed a call for the U.N. Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, a move that would open the way for war crimes prosecutions.
A draft of the letter obtained Friday by The Associated Press says the situation in Syria should be referred to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal "without exceptions and irrespective of the alleged perpetrators."
"At the very least, the council should send out an unequivocal message (...) announcing that it intends to refer the situation to the ICC unless a credible, fair and independent accountability process is being established in a timely manner" by Syria, it continues.
The letter cites the findings of a U.N. expert panel documenting summary executions, torture and sexual violence that has occurred since the start of the uprising in March 2011. It also notes repeated appeals by the U.N.'s top human rights official and resolutions by the global body's Human Rights Council calling for ICC referral.
The draft letter was signed by Switzerland's ambassador to the United Nations in New York on behalf of dozens of countries including Britain and France, two of the Security Council's five permanent members. The other three permanent members _ the United States, China and Russia _ had not signed the draft.
A spokesman for Switzerland's U.N. mission in New York said the letter would be submitted to the Security Council on Monday.
Adrian Sollberger said Switzerland first proposed such a move in June 2012, and that it now had the backing of more than 50 countries from all regions of the world, giving the call sufficient political weight.
"The manifold allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria must be investigated and those responsible among all the parties of the conflict must be brought before a court," he said.
The Security Council is the only body that can refer Syria to the ICC because the country itself hasn't ratified the international convention that established the tribunal.
The U.N.'s human rights office issued a report last week estimating that at least 60,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the conflict.
9:02 PM PT:
al Arabiya News has this report
Russia urges Syria transition, Switzerland to petition ICC for war crimes
Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:16 am (KSA) 07:16 am (GMT)
Russia called on Saturday for a political transition in Syria, while Switzerland said it would petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe war crimes in the country.
Regime warplanes carried out air strikes near the capital and a car bomb blew up in Damascus province, while gunmen shot dead an athletics champion, AFP reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying.
Switzerland to petition ICC
Meanwhile, amid unrelenting violence, Switzerland said it will file on Monday a petition signed by 52 countries calling for the ICC to open a case on war crimes in Syria, its foreign minister said.
“Serious war crimes are being committed in Syria. We must make sure they not go unpunished,” Didier Burkhalter told Swiss national television TSR.
“We’re submitting a proposal. Now it is up to the Security Council to decide,” he added, saying the U.N. organ could either block or pursue the request.
Since Syria is not a party to the ICC, the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, a U.N. Security Council referral is needed for the court to look into crimes committed in the 22-month conflict.
The United Nations estimates that more than 60,000 people have died since the March 2011 outbreak of the revolt, and says more than 600,000 Syrians are registered as refugees in the region.
Escalating violence has led to thousands of low and mid-level defections, when peaceful protests turned violent amid a deadly crackdown on dissent.
In a video posted on the Internet on Friday, a man identifying himself as Jumaa Farraj Jassem, a senior foreign intelligence official, announced his defection. AFP was unable to verify the authenticity of the video. More...
9 News National is reporting:
Aust backs criminal court move on Syria
2:37pm January 12, 2013
Australia has supported a move from more than 50 nations to call for the UN security council to refer the crisis in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
A draft letter signed by Switzerland on behalf of dozens of nations says the crisis in Syria should be referred to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal.
The draft states a probe should be "without exceptions and irrespective of the alleged perpetrators", according to The Associated Press.
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr said on Saturday that Australia would sign the letter "in the next few days".
"We support the intent of the Swiss letter."
The letter cites the findings of a UN expert panel documenting summary executions, torture and sexual violence that has occurred since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011.
Australia took up its two-year term on the Security Council from January 1. More...
The Jerusalem Post is reporting
EU states urge the UN to refer Syria to the ICC
European countries call for the perpetrators of "horrendous crimes" committed during Syria conflict to be put on trial.
Four EU member states urged the United Nations to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a joint letter released by Austria's foreign ministry to CNN on Friday.
Austria, Denmark, Ireland and Slovenia lamented the "horrendous crimes" that have been committed during the conflict in Syria and bemoaned the fact that there have been no consequences for the perpetrators.
The foreign ministers of the four countries stated that "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."
The letter cites the attack on Austrian UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights as well as reports of Syria using chemical weapons as reasons for immediate action. More...
The Lebanon Daily Star is reporting:
55 states demand UN Council orders Syria war crimes case
January 14, 2013 12:17 PM
UNITED NATIONS: At least 55 countries will on Monday demand that the UN Security Council refer the Syria conflict to the International Criminal Court for a war crimes investigation.
The demand will be made in a letter organized by Switzerland, which has spent seven months collecting signatories. The 15-member Security Council is the only body that can refer the case to the ICC.
Swiss UN mission spokesman Adrian Sollberger told AFP the letter would be handed over Monday.
Other diplomatic sources said 55 countries had signed and others could still join even though the initiative has little immediate chance of success.
The Security Council is in a crippling deadlock over the 22-month old Syria conflict. Permanent members Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions which would have threatened sanctions against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
As neither are members of The Hague-based court, both countries would almost certainly reject any new resolution proposing war crimes charges. Syria is also not a member.
European countries have provided the majority of the signatories, according to diplomatic sources.
The United States has not signed the letter because it is not an ICC member, but does support the initiative, diplomats said. More...
Monday Human Rights Watch reported
that 57 countries had signed the letter:
UN Security Council: Heed Call for Justice in Syria
57 States Press for ICC Referral
January 14, 2013
(New York) – A letter sent to the United Nations Security Council on behalf of 57 states calling for a referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) gives momentum to international efforts to stop grave abuses committed there. More countries should join the call and impress on reluctant Council members the urgency of taking up the issue of accountability.
The letter– sent by Switzerland on January 14, 2013, and signed by states including France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Botswana, Tunisia, Japan, and Costa Rica – points to a pervasive climate of impunity in Syria and concludes that the Security Council must therefore act to fill this accountability gap. Signatories hail from all regions of world and represent a significant cross-section of UN member states, Human Rights Watch said.More...
Switzerland has released the text of the letter
Switzerland asks the UN Security Council to refer the serious
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crimes committed in Syria to the International Criminal Court
The numerous allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria need to be investigated and those responsible on all sides of the conflict brought before court. Switzerland, supported by 56 other countries, lodged this request with the UN Security Council in a letter on 14 January 2013. The best means of ensuring justice would be to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Switzerland is convinced that no lasting peace is possible in Syria without taking consistent action against impunity.
After almost two years of bitter and bloody fighting the humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate further. The conflict has already claimed around 60,000 lives, predominantly civilians, and there is still no political solution in sight. In view of this dramatic situation and the lack of any signs of an improvement, Switzerland wishes this letter to send a clear signal that basic humanitarian values should be respected and justice upheld. The appeal is intended both to remind the victims of the conflict that they have not been forgotten and as a warning to the warring parties that they should put a stop to the violence and respect human rights and international humanitarian law. 56 countries have joined this appeal to the Security Council.
The Swiss initiative is of an exclusively humanitarian nature and is impartial. It espouses only the cause of justice. Those responsible on all sides of the conflict should be brought to justice. Although prime responsibility for bringing alleged perpetrators to justice lies with the Syrian authorities, they have made no efforts to investigate the allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes in fair and independent legal proceedings. Consequently, justice can only be expected from the International Criminal Court. As Syria is not a state party to the ICC founding statute, referral to the Criminal Court requires a decision of the Security Council.
The letter is a petition as the sole authority to decide on such a referral lies with the Security Council. Nonetheless, regardless of the outcome, the letter sends a strong signal against impunity and shows that a significant number of countries are not willing to tolerate crimes against humanity and war crimes.
For further details:
Head of FDFA Information
+41 (0)79 763 84 10
Spokesperson of the Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations, New York
+1 (917) 757 3389