Syria should be referred to ICC, UN's Navi Pillay says


Navi Pillay on Syria crackdown: "Five-thousand killed, including 300 children."

The top United Nations human rights official has told the Security Council that Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court over its crackdown on anti-government protests.

Navi Pillay said she felt widespread killings and torture in the country "constituted crimes against humanity".

Ms Pillay put the number of those killed by security forces in the nine-month uprising at more than 5,000.

Syria's UN envoy said Ms Pillay was "not objective" and "not fair".

Ms Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told a closed session of the Security Council that 300 children had been among those killed since the start of the uprising in March.

She also said 14,000 people were believed to have been arrested, and 12,400 had fled to neighbouring countries.

"It is based on the evidence and the widespread and systematic nature of the killings, the detentions and the acts of torture that I felt that these acts constituted crimes against humanity and I recommended that there should be a referral to the International Criminal Court," Ms Pillay said.

She said her estimate of more than 5,000 deaths did not include security forces. The Syrian government has said more than 1,000 of its police and troops have been killed.

The Syrian ambassador at the UN, Bashar Jaafari, said Ms Pillay had "allowed herself to be misused in misleading the public opinion by providing information based on allegations collected from 233 defectors".

Anti-government protest in Idlib (09/12/11) Anti-government protests have continued daily since March

He added: "How could defectors give positive testimonies on the Syrian government? Of course they will give negative testimonies against the Syrian government."

Call for action

It is difficult to confirm the exact casualty toll in Syria because there are no independent monitors on the ground and international journalists have been denied access to the country.

Ms Pillay said the protesters in Syria had remained largely peaceful since the uprising erupted in March, but that attacks against the Syrian government had been increasing.

Many Syrian army deserters have joined opposition forces in recent months.

Ms Pillay warned that inaction by the international community would only embolden the Syrian authorities.

The EU has imposed 10 rounds of sanctions on the Syrian government, and the Arab League has suspended its membership. However the UN has so far passed a resolution condemning Damascus.

Russia and China both vetoed a European-led draft at the UN in October. India, South Africa and Brazil have also been reluctant to support action at the Security Council.

Ms Pillay urged the council to "speak coherently with one voice".

"Urgent, effective measures in a collective and decisive manner must be taken to protect Syrians," she said.

After meeting Ms Pillay, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was "really shocked about what I heard about the atrocities in Syria".

He said countries on the Security Council that were still hesitating to condemn Damascus had to change their mind.

But Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin complained that the body had recently seen key members "switch gears and turn into regime change mode".

"That of course is something which can not be conducive to a political process and that's what troubles us a great deal."

General strike

Fighting was said to have continued in several cities on Monday, with at least 20 people reported killed.

The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), a network of opposition activists, said the deaths had occurred in Idlib in the north, Homs and Hama further south, and in a suburb of Damascus.

Fierce fighting is also reportedly continuing in the southern province of Deraa.

Local elections were held across the country - part of President Assad's very slow and not entirely convincing reform programme announced some months ago, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul, in neighbouring Turkey.

The opposition had called for a boycott.

In anti-government strongholds activists said there were few signs that an election was even happening, and almost no-one was voting, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in neighbouring Turkey.

The opposition called a general strike over the weekend, and much of the country has more or less shut down.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Syria is a member of the Arab League. What do the Arab League have to say about events within Syria? I would hope they are strongly dealing with the Syrian government behind the scenes to resolve issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Yes, let's look to Russia and China for guidance on human rights, openness and transparency........

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    49 @Dustin: Where is the balanced reporting?

    Ask Assad that question. His regime is the one which has banned independent media for the last 41 years and is now preventing foreign journalists travelling freely around the country. Just ask Assad what his regime is trying to hide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.


    "Israel doesn't murder it's own citizens. Do some research!"

    It's a strange type of moral high ground on which you sit to draw a distinction between a Government that kills its own citizens and one that kills those for refusing to be its citizens.

    Whilst the Russians may have an interest in protecting their military base in Syria, the US has its interests in regime change

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    @woodsfan (35) and others who feel similarly: the West's motives are often suspect and questionable, but the maltreatment of people anywhere on Earth is everybody on Earth's business. 'For evil to triumph, good men must do nothing.' I want the society in which I live to do something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    45. magentaobscura
    Just like Labour were palsy with Gadaffi & his regime eh!

    Yes, I fully agree with you but let's not forget they both paid the price for their actions. No-one is calling the present government or Bahreini royals to account though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Media and Politicians have no morals!

    The civilized world needs an uprising against both the above.
    Except Channel 4 TV, Al Jazeera, HRW, AI, ICG and few others, most powerful countries, US, India and media were keeping silent when human rights abuses and the massacres of innocent Tamils including surrendered POWs committed by the Sri Lanka regime.

    "Shouting in the dark" - Bravo Al Jazeera!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    This is one situation where sitting back and letting them get on with it might be the best solution. I'd love to see Israel offering some kind of refuge on their border for the injured - how badly would -that- screw with Iran's head?

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    33. "China and Russia have been calling for dialogue between both sides for months."

    The Assad regime has been in power for 41 years during which it has made it abundantly clear that its idea of dialogue is intimidation, imprisonment, torture and death.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Ms Navi Pillay should pay an awful lot more attention to human rights in her home country of South Africa and then to India her home of ethnic origin.

    I really do get p... off when people are elevated to a soap-box position and then use that platform to decry the world but not their own countries of origin or ethnicity. The other is BKM of the UN.

    The ICC is a sham.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Ah, so you actually want World War III & millions of deaths on your conscience is that it? Read post 41 you may have missed it. I also forgot to throw Hamas into the mix as well.

    @50.V Siva
    Where were you when Bosniaks were being murdered in srebrenica, when Kosovans were being attacked or the genocide occurred in Rwanda.

    Shame on you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Shameful Int'l community, double standard policies and its discreminative actions.

    Where were you guys?
    a. when hundreds of thousands of Tamils massacred and abused by the Sri Lankan regime
    b. Crimes committed against civilians including medics in Bahrain by Saudi and Bahrain forces
    c. Israel committing crimes against Palestinians
    d. India commit human rights abuses against Kashmiris


  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Why are we all forming our opinions on a single report based entirely on statements by unnamed, unverifiable US State Department funded opposition supporters? Where is the balanced reporting? These are not peaceful protests - over 1000 security personnel have also been killed. What do you think would happen in the US if protesters started shooting at police officers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    5000 in about 8 months -- makes Israel's response to the Palestinian uprising look moderate and tempered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    For the West, everything is dictated by national or economic interest. Nothing is based on morals or values.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    In Bahrain they arrest and torture doctors to death for treating peaceful protesters who survived the Saudi death squads. Schoolgirls are tortured and publically flogged for refusing to bow down to pictures of the king. The same would happen in any middle eastern kingdom, dictatorship or theocracy. The UN and BBC should condemn all or none.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Just like Labour were palsy with Gadaffi & his regime eh!

    I refer you to posts 30 & 37.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Referring this to the international court will have the effect of rich lawyers being paid large sums of money while the situation in Syria remains wholly unchanged.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    What about Bahrein? The authorities there are equally repressive, but then again the Windsors and Tories are really palsy with the Bahreini royals so it looks like nothing will be done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Sorry, but the UN authorised action in Libya, and it wasn't just NATO who was involved.

    Russia doesn't want sanctions against Syria because of the $4 billion arms sales going through; they need these sales because they've lost the Libyan market ...


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