December 22, 2014
Russia, China veto UN effort to refer Syria to International Court
Russia and China vetoed today a resolution to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country's three-year civil war.
This was the fourth time Russia and China have blocked UN Security Council action on Syria. Moscow is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. More than 150,000 people have been killed during the Syrian conflict.
British foreign minister William Hague said he was "appalled" by Russia and China's veto and called on them to justifiy their move.
In turn, US ambassador Samantha Power said Beijing and Moscow's vetoes "help impunity, not only Bashar al-Assad's, but the terrorists'". Power said "there should be accountability for those members of the council who prevented accountability."
"It is clear in this case that no side in this tragedy is innocent," said UN Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, addressing the Security Council on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
There were 62 co-sponsors of the French-drafted resolution, diplomats said. The French-drafted resolution was put to a vote knowing it would be vetoed.
"If members of the council continue to be unable to agree on a measure that could provide some accountability for the ongoing crimes, the credibility of this body and the entire organization will continue to suffer," Eliasson said.
The ICC prosecutor cannot investigate the situation in Syria without a referral from the 15-member Security Council because Damascus is not a member of the Rome Statute that established The Hague-based court a decade ago. The Security Council has previously referred Libya and Darfur, Sudan to the ICC.
UN investigators said in March that they had expanded their list of suspected war criminals from both sides in the civil war and that the evidence was solid enough to prepare any court indictment.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay told the Security Council last month that human rights violations by Syrian government forces "far outweigh" those by armed opposition groups.
Eleven countries on the Security Council are members of the International Criminal Court. Like the United States, Russia, China and Rwanda are not.