UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said Tuesday that the death toll resulting from two years of armed conflict in Syria is approaching 70,000. The conflict and subsequent deaths arose out of a revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC backgrounder], which began with peaceful protests that quickly turned into violence between Assad's forces and demonstrators. Pillay also urged the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites] in an effort to quell the escalating violence. UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon [official website] also urged the Security Council [press release] to take action in an address [text] to a US think tank on Monday:
Syria is self-destructing. ... Our responsibility is to get to the roots and make the violence stop. But for the moment, division rules the dayinside Syria, in the region, in the UN Security Council. The Syrians are not ready to talk to one another. The regime remains as repressive as ever. The situation cries out for action by the Security Council in particular. ... The Security Council must no longer stand on the sidelines, dead-locked, silently witnessing the slaughter. It must be willing, at long last, to come together and establish the parameters for the democratic transition that could save Syria.Despite call from the international community, the Security Council is not likely to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC [Reuters report], which is not an official UN body.
The Syrian government has been in conflict with the opposition since 2011, and the international community has become increasingly concerned about the violence. Last month more than 50 countries asked the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria [JURIST report] to the ICC. A study carried out by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] reported in January that the average number of deaths per month has increased significantly [JURIST report] since the summer of 2011, where the average was approximately 1,000 per month, to an average of 5,000 deaths per month since July 2012. A UN official said in November that a video posted on the Internet of Syrian rebels executing government soldiers who had surrendered may be evidence of war crimes [JURIST report]. In October, Pillay called on the international community to work to bring an end to the Syrian conflict [JURIST report]. Her statement came after Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported earlier that month that the Syrian government was using cluster bombs [JURIST report] against opposition forces. In September UN investigators reported [JURIST report] that the number and frequency of human rights violations committed by both sides of the conflict were increasing rapidly.