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Syria: Door remains wide open for further atrocities after lack of referral to the ICC, UN experts warn

GENEVA (30 May 2014) – A group of United Nations independent human rights experts* today emphasized that the UN Security Council’s decision not to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) leaves the door wide open for new atrocities in the ongoing conflict.

“The double veto last week to a resolution referring the situation in Syria to the ICC is likely to expose the Syrian population to further gross human rights and humanitarian law violations,” they said. “The failure to hold those responsible for the violations to account may fuel further atrocities.”

The human rights experts stressed that “given the absence of prosecution at the domestic level it was the UN Security Council’s responsibility to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.”

“Referring the situation in Syria to the ICC would have been an important and most necessary step both to protect civilians against continued and future violations by all sides to the conflict, and to curb impunity for the grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law, some amounting to crimes against humanity,” they noted.

In March, in light of its serious concern and the gravity of the situation in relation to enforced disappearance in the country, the UN Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances requested the Security Council to consider referring the matter to the International Criminal Court (“Syria: Group of experts call for action into enforced disappearances as crimes against humanity” http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14410&LangID=E)

(*) The experts: Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson; Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo De Greiff; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez; Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns; Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

They are charged by the Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on human rights issues. Currently, there are 37 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. Three new mandates were added in March 2014. The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – Syria: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/SYIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Marlene Urscheler (Tel: +41 22 917 9396 / murscheler@ohchr.org), or write to wgeid@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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