Russia, China veto French-drafted Syria war crimes resolution

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Syrians take part in the funeral of a soldier, who died during the Syrian conflict, at the Martyr's cemetery of the city of Tartus northwest of Damascus on May 18, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Joseph Eid)

Published Thursday, May 22, 2014

Russia and China vetoed on Thursday 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 war.

"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.

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Wednesday dismissed the French initiative as a "publicity stunt" that would undermine efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria.

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 war and that the evidence was solid enough to prepare any court indictment.

Although the United States is not a party to the ICC, it agreed to support the draft resolution after ensuring that Israel would be protected from any possible prosecution at the International Criminal Court related to its occupation of the Golan Heights in Syria, UN diplomats said.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war and annexed the strategic plateau in a move the world has not recognized. Syrian troops are not allowed in an area of separation -- monitored by UN peacekeepers -- under a 1973 ceasefire formalized in 1974.

Eleven countries on the Security Council are members of the International Criminal Court. Like the United States, Russia, China and Rwanda are not.

(Reuters, AFP)

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