UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Thursday urged the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites] to investigate the violent suppression of anti-government protests. Pillay's remarks came after the Fact-finding Mission in Syria published its 22-page report concluding that Syrian government forces cracking down on the opposition may be committing crimes against humanity [JURIST report]. Pillay said, however, that she is not optimistic [Al Jazeera report] that the Security Council will act. Also Thursday, a coalition of 50 human rights groups led by UN Watch [advocacy website] sent an open letter [text] to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) [official website] urging them to mandate a permanent special investigator on Syria and to hold televised hearings in Geneva for victims to testify:
We therefore call on the council now to use all measures at its disposal to end the bloodshed. Inter alia, we recommend that the Special Session do the following:The HRC is set to hold a special session on Syria [press release] on Monday.
- The council should strongly condemn Syria for its gross and systematic violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to life.
- Given the inability of the High Commissioner’s fact-finding mission to enter Syria, the council should request the mission to conduct public hearings at the United Nations office in Geneva, featuring live, televised testimony by victims of the Syrian massacres, some of whom have escaped to neighboring countries. ...
- The Council should end the protection gap by appointing a Special Rapporteur on the grave situation of human rights in Syria. ...
- The council should take action to hold the Syrian military and political leadership personally accountable for crimes against humanity.
The Fact-finding Mission was established [JURIST report] by the HRC in April but was not permitted to enter the country. Last week, 27 rights groups called for the HRC to convene a second special session on Syria [JURIST report]. Also last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that an unknown Western country is funding an investigation [JURIST report] into Syria's recent human rights abuses. Last month, two UN rights officials expressed concern over reports of violence [JURIST report] used by Syrian authorities against the country's own people. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Francis Deng and Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Edward Luck said that reports of Syrian forces killing or arbitrarily arresting peaceful protesters indicate potentially grievous violations of international human rights laws, and urged officials to adhere to the government's 2005 pledge to protect its citizens. In June, the OHCHR published a preliminary report [JURIST report] describing human rights violations in Syria and calling for an investigation into government-authorized abuses related to pro-democracy protests that began earlier this year.