UN chief renews call to ICC for war crimes probe in Syria

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged the UN Security Council to make a formal request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to begin investigations of war crimes in Syria.

Previous requests by the secretary-general to investigate war crimes were blocked by the Russians and the Chinese in 2014. The two countries, who are permanent members of the Security Council, vetoed resolutions on Syria five times.

Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council to try again, describing the situation in Syria as “heart-breaking”.

The 15-member council has the authority to refer a country to the Hague-based ICC for war crimes investigations as it has done for Libya and Sudan’s troubled Darfur region.

In May 2014, France presented a draft resolution calling for war crimes to be investigated in Syria, but the measure was defeated when Russia and China used their veto power to block the request.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre did not rule out another attempt, but said diplomats need to be “creative” about how to get the ICC involved in a war crimes probe in Syria.

“When you bomb hospitals, when you bomb schools, when you kill children, if these are not war crimes then frankly then I don’t know what war crimes are,” said Delattre yesterday.

The Security Council remains deeply divided over Syria between Russia, which is offering military support to President Bashar Al-Assad, and Western powers backing opposition forces.

More than 300,000 people have been killed during the ongoing conflict in Syria.