UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile; JURIST news archive], in a speech [text] to the UN General Assembly on Monday, called for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Pillay urged an investigation of Syrian government and military officials for possible crimes against humanity. She emphasized that the international community needed to hold Syrian officials accountable for their alleged human rights abuses:
The Fact-Finding Mission, the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, and I myself have all concluded that crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed in Syria. I have encouraged the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. All Member States must ensure that these crimes do not go unpunished. The Universal Declaration for Human Rights, adopted by this Assembly more than 60 years ago, makes clear that it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law. The people of Syria are asking for the rights that every human being is entitled to.Pillay cited reports indicating that Syrian security forces have killed more than 5,400 people since violence between President Bashar al-Assad's government and anti-government protesters began eleven months ago.
Pillay, as well as numerous human rights groups, have called for both an end to violence in Syria and ICC prosecution of Syrian officials. On Friday, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] requested [JURIST report] that Syrian officials suspected of crimes against humanity be tried before the ICC. Pillay has addressed the UN Security Council twice to urge ICC prosecutions [JURIST reports]. Last week the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) [official website] claimed that 11 months of violence in Syria has led to the deaths of hundreds of children [JURIST report]. Earlier this month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused the Syrian army of torturing children [JURIST report]. In January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] demanded [JURIST report] that President Assad end violence against Syrian civilians. In November, HRW declared that Syrian forces were committing crimes against humanity [JURIST report], including torture and unlawful killings of anti-government protesters. JURIST contributing editor Chibli Mallat has argued that a UN Security Council resolution would not have affected meaningful change [JURIST op-ed].