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Russia and China Block Security Council Move to Prosecute Syria War Crimes
By Rick Gladstone, The New York Times
22 May 2014
Russia and China on Thursday vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have empowered the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute war crimes in Syria, defying widespread support for such a move by human rights advocates and many United Nations members including the United States.
It was the fourth time that Russia and China had used their veto power as a permanent Security Council members to block any coercive action by the international body in the Syrian conflict, which began more than three years ago and has claimed at least 150,000 lives.
The vote on the resolution, sponsored by France and broadcast live on the United Nations website, received 13 yes votes in the 15-member council.
More than 50 members of the General Assembly had urged the council to approve the measure, and many rights advocates had pressed for a favorable vote, even though they had expected a veto at least by Russia, the Syrian government’s most important backer.
Russia’s ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, had announced on Wednesday that Russia would veto the resolution, arguing that it would be counterproductive and subvert any diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict. Syria’s government had also publicly opposed the resolution, calling it a one-sided attempt by France and its allies to intervene in Syria’s internal affairs.
Syria is not a signatory to the treaty that created the International Criminal Court more than a decade ago, aimed at holding those who commit war crimes and other atrocities accountable. Under the treaty, however, the Security Council has the power to authorize the court to investigate and prosecute cases in countries that are not signatories.
Before the vote, Jan Eliasson, the deputy secretary general, had urged the Security Council to take action. “The Security Council has an inescapable responsibility in this regard to insure justice for victims of unspeakable crimes,” he said.
Gérard Araud, the ambassador from France, emphasized that the resolution would have applied to crimes committed by all sides in the conflict, which have been widely documented. He said a veto of the measure was equivalent to “vetoing justice.”
© 2014 The New York Times Company
Featured Image: Members of the United Nations Security Council, including Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, foreground second from left, raise their hands in this April 14, 2012 file photo taken at U.N. headquarters. The U.N. Security Council faces a dramatic vote Thursday May 22, 2014 on referring the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court for investigation of possible war crimes, with dozens of countries signing on to embarrass Russia which vowed to kill the measure that demands a path to justice. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)