Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Tuesday accused [press release] the US of undermining efforts to try the Syrian government and its president Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. In its World Report 2014 [text, PDF], HRW said the US focused too much on peace talks with Syria rather than putting "real pressure" on Assad's regime to end the atrocities against its citizens. "As the Geneva II peace talks begin, with uncertain prospects of success, they shouldn't become the latest excuse to avoid action to protect Syrian civilians," HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth [official profile] said. "This requires real pressure to stop the killing and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid they need to survive." The report also accuses Russia and China of continually protecting the Syrian government from international action despite a rising death toll. "The international community seems all too willing to let the killing of Syrian civilians continue. Some governments reinforce their apathy by promoting the narrative of ruthless combatants killing each other, whether the Syrian military, Hezbollah, or jihadists. ... Urgency, rather than complacency, should be the order of the day."
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has persisted for almost three years, and there is mounting international pressure to find an end to the conflict. The main opposition group within Syria, the Syrian National Coalition [official website], recently agreed to attend the Geneva II conference after an invitation to Iran was rescinded by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [UN backgrounder] yesterday. Following Iran's original invitation to Geneva II, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition announced [JURIST report] it would refuse to attend the peace talks if Iran was in attendance. Iran is the primary international supporter of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the current regime. UN pressure on Syria has mounted in the last month as evidence revealed signs of war crimes in the country. Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned [JURIST report] Syrian opposition groups that eyewitness reports of mass executions are violations of human rights and may amount to war crimes.