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Friday, February 10, 2012

UN rights office calls for ICC trial for Syria officials
Jerry Votava at 2:06 PM ET

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[JURIST] The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] Friday reiterated its call for international action to protect civilians in Syria [JURIST news archive], calling for Syrian officials suspected of crimes against humanity to be tried before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. High Commissioner Navi Pillay [official profile] is now scheduled to address the UN General Assembly [UN News Centre report] on Monday regarding the latest humanitarian developments in Syria, where the ongoing uprising challenging the autocratic rule of President Bashar Assad has resulted in a bloody government crackdown that has seen more than 5,000 people killed since March. Reports of increased violence in recent days [Reuters report] prompted Pillay earlier this week to urge international intervention [JURIST report] on behalf of the Syrian people. General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser [official profile] then made a request for Pillay to brief the 193-member Assembly after she argued that the failure of the UN Security Council [official website] to agree on collective action against Syria has encouraged the Syrian government to attack and kill civilians to quash dissent. The General Assembly also plans to discuss at the session a December report by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] that strongly condemned the recent violence [JURIST report], and upon which the Council passed an emergency resolution calling for the appointment of a special human rights investigator on Syria, the suspension of Syrian security forces suspected of human rights violations and the release of prisoners of conscience held by Syrian authorities. No other UN bodies have acted on the resolution.

The OHCHR has consistently called for an end to the violence in Syria and ICC prosecution of Syrian officials. Pillay has addressed the UN Security Council twice to urge ICC prosecutions [JURIST reports]. Human rights groups have also sharply criticized the Syrian government for using violence against its own people. Earlier this week the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) [official website] claimed that 11 months of violence in Syria has led to the deaths of hundreds of children [JURIST report]. Earlier this month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused the Syrian army of torturing children [JURIST report]. In January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] demanded [JURIST report] that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC backgrounder] end violence against Syrian civilians. In November, HRW declared that Syrian forces were committing crimes against humanity [JURIST report], including torture and unlawful killings of anti-government protesters. JURIST contributing editor Chibli Mallat argues that a UN Security Council resolution would not have affected meaningful change [JURIST op-ed].

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