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Syria: latest UN report should trigger referral to International Criminal Court

‘How many more reports need to be published on Syria for the world to wake up and take action to stop the bloodshed of civilians?’ - Philip Luther

Today’s International Commission of Inquiry report on Syria is yet further evidence to prompt the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International said this afternoon.

The report, released at the UN in Geneva today, confirmed that there are reasonable grounds to believe that “limited quantities of toxic chemicals” were used during four separate attacks in March and April, although it affirms it has not been possible to “determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrators.”  The report calls on the Syrian authorities to allow full access to experts in order to reach conclusive findings on the issue.

The Commission’s report also highlights the negative impact of the increased availability of weapons, which “leads to further civilian deaths and injuries”. It particularly refers to the mass killings in the cities of al-Bayda and Banias last month, saying that “evidence gathered indicates the perpetrators are Government-affiliated militia. The investigation continues”.

The report, the Commission’s fifth report on Syria since 2011, covers human rights violations and abuses by all sides in the conflict, including unlawful killings, arbitrary detention and sexual violence, as well as other war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said:

“How many more reports need to be published on Syria for the world to wake up and take action to stop the bloodshed of civilians?

“The UN Security Council must refer the situation to the International Criminal Court and insist that the Syrian authorities allow the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as humanitarian and human rights organisations, full access to the country.

“Any efforts to document human rights abuses in Syria, as a first step towards bringing those responsible to justice, is seriously hampered by the government’s denial of access to many areas.”

Since early 2011, Amnesty has been calling for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Tens of thousands of people have died as a result of the armed conflict that begun in Syria in March 2011, including at least 1,300 people who are reported to have died in custody. While it is clear that the vast majority of war crimes and other gross violations continue to be committed by government forces, the organisation’s research points to an escalation in abuses by armed opposition groups, which have increasingly resorted to hostage-taking and to the torture and summary killing of soldiers, members of pro-government militias and civilians.

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