UN Security Council-7180th Meeting (AM) Referral of Syria to International Criminal Court Fails
Posted on July 3rd, 2014

China , Russian Federation Vote against Text –Courtesy: UN Security Council

Two permanent members cast negative votes in the Security Council preventing the adoption of a draft resolution that would have referred the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Speaking before that action — which failed to pass by a vote of 13 in favour to 2 against (China, Russian Federation), with no abstentions — Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson recalled that for more than three years, the Council had been unable to agree on measures to bring an end to the brutal war that hurt not only Syrians, but the entire region.  The Syrian people had a fundamental right to justice, and the United Nations had a duty to defend it, he emphasized, warning that if the Council could not agree, the credibility of the entire Organization would continue to suffer.

France’s representative, speaking after the vote, said the draft resolution was not a new proposal.  The text was based on language approved in previous resolutions and sought to find unity on the basis of values shared among Member States.  It appealed to the human conscience and was not a political gesture, he said, stressing that failure to adopt it was an insult to humanity.

The representative of the United States said the draft resolution was about accountability for crimes so extensive and deadly that they had few equals in modern history.  It was also about accountability on the Council’s part.  Recalling that the International Criminal Court had been able to act when extraordinary crimes had been committed in the past, she asked why the Syrian people did not equally deserve international justice.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that although he understood the motivations of delegations supporting the draft resolution and shared their emotions, it was difficult to understand France’s motivation since that delegation had been fully aware of the end result of tabling the text draft.  P5” unity had been demonstrated through concrete positive results like resolutions 2118 (2013) on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, or resolution 2139 (2014) on humanitarian issues.  Why deal a blow to the P5 in this case?” he asked, wondering whether it was a way to provoke an armed response against Syria.  Furthermore, it was damaging to the P5 at such a critical point in the search for a political solution.  The recent resignation of the Joint Arab League-United Nations Envoy for Syria should be an opportunity to seek a way to break the impasse, which was exactly what the draft resolution presented by the Russian Federation aimed to do.

Bad peace is better than a good quarrel,” he said, citing a Russian saying in pointing out that the draft resolution proposed by Western colleagues” did not include a list of terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic Front, which led one to wonder whether there was an attempt to change the regime by force.  Such an approach could explain the international community’s failure to reach a negotiated political solution.  Also of note was the absence of any mention of a settlement between the Syrian parties themselves, he noted, saying the Western troika” had dissuaded another round of Geneva talks.  The draft resolution was using the Court to inflame political passions for outside military intervention, he said.

He went on to recall that when the Council had referred the situation in Libya to the Court, that action had resulted only in throwing oil on the fire”.  The Court had not risen to the occasion, evading the most pressing matter of bombardment by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces against civilians.  The United States, while calling for referrals to the Court, was not itself a party to the Rome Statute, while the United Kingdom, although a party, was reluctant to try its own nationals who were fighting as members of armed groups in Syria.  If either country would refer the Iraqi file to the Court, they would demonstrate their opposition to impunity, he said.  Abandon your futile dead-end policy,” he advised other Council members, if they valued Syrian lives, to join his delegation in seeking a political solution.  However, for the delegation of France to call the political process dead” was irresponsible and a betrayal of the Syrian people.

WANG MIN ( China) said that for more than three years, the Syrian people had endured deep suffering while the conflict posed a serious challenge to countries in the region and the whole international community.  China opposed all acts of violence in violation of international humanitarian law or human rights.  However, it had some serious difficulties with the draft resolution.  Any action seeking referral to the International Criminal Court should be based on the premise of respect for the judicial sovereignty of States and the principle of complementarity, he said.  Historically, China had always held reservations about referring situations to the Court.  Although current efforts to seek a political solution were experiencing difficulties, the international community must remain patient.  What was urgently needed was for the Government of Syria and the opposition to agree on an immediate ceasefire and begin a third round of negotiations.  Forcibly referring the situation to the Court in the current environment was neither conducive to building trust nor to the resumption of negotiations in Geneva, he warned.

For some time now, the Council had maintained unity on the question of Syria because members had made efforts to accommodate the major concerns of all sides, he recalled, adding that it should have continued consultations so as to avoid disrupting unity rather than forcibly pushing for a vote.  As for China’s reason for having voted against the draft resolution, he said he had presented his delegation’s point of view based very explicitly on facts.  However, Western countries had made totally unfounded” accusations against China, which it rejected as insults, he said, noting that his country had always upheld an objective and impartial position on the question of Syria and did not pursue any self-interest on the issue.  China had always been committed to a political settlement of the conflict and had worked in a comprehensive and balanced manner to urge all parties involved to seek a middle path.  China was deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Syria and attached great importance to the legitimate concerns of all parties.

Syria’s representative said his Government had implemented a series of measures aimed at holding accountable those involved in war crimes and had taken legal action against them.  The National Investigation Committee continued to do its job in parallel with the judiciary, which was looking into thousands of cases.  This confirms the desire and ability of the Syrian Government to achieve justice and denies any pretext to involve any international judicial body that conflicts with the national judiciary’s powers,” he said.  The crisis had unveiled the level of double standards within United Nations mechanisms and their use to target certain Member States in the name of law and justice.  The draft resolution was political, discriminatory, interventionist and aimed at disrupting Syria’s presidential elections, he said.  Tabling the text represented a continuing attempt by some Member States to portray themselves as the custodians of the Syrian people, and contrasted starkly with the Council’s repeated affirmations of its strong commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, as well as the call for a political solution.

The representatives of Rwanda, United Kingdom, Jordan, Luxembourg, Chile, Australia, Lithuania, Argentina, Chad, and the Republic of Korea also spoke.

Courtesy: UN Security Council

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