UN debates Syria amid new demands Assad quits

Syria may face justice at the International Criminal Court as news came that UN investigators have asked the Security Council to refer the issue. Meanwhile, the US and major European countries have urged Syria’s President Bashar Assad to step down.

The call from the US President Barak Obama cames in response to a deadly and protracted crackdown on anti-government protesters, with military force being used against civilians.

The leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom added their voices to Obama’s demand.

“Our three countries believe that President Assad, who is resorting to brutal military force against his own people and who is responsible for the situation, has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country,” British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States “will take steps to mitigate any unintended effects of the (new) sanctions on the Syrian people.”

“These actions strike at the heart of the regime,” Clinton said, noting that the United States expects other countries “will amplify the steps we are taking.”

The call for Bashar Assad to step down came despite the Syrian president’s assurances to UN  Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon that military operations against anti-government protesters had been halted. 

Meanwhile the UN mission, which was set up by the Human Rights Council in late April, released a 22-page  report on Thursday which finds Syria guilty of human rights violations in its months-long crackdown on protesters, which it said involved the use of torture, deprivation of liberty and persecution.

“The mission found a pattern of human rights violations that constitutes widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population, which may amount to crimes against humanity,” the report says.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, is to address the 15-nation UN Security Council in a closed-door session later on Thursday.

Officials said Pillay is expected to give an assessment of the situation on the ground in Syria.

Diplomats expressed hope that the session would pave the way for action against Syria, including a Security Council resolution.

But journalist and broadcaster Neil Clark is skeptical about the move. He believes that the call for the International Criminal Court will not be very helpful. The big problem with international justice, he says, is that it is very biased and there is a lack of a “fair impartial system.”

However, a resolution is unlikely to pass due to the refusal of Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa to accept the measure.

About 2,000 people are believed to have been killed in Syria since March. However, the authorities say that the number is a substantial over-estimate.

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