Amnesty International has welcomed news the United Nations is being called upon to take action on crimes committed in the Syrian conflict. The call came in a petition submitted to the U.N. Security Council by Switzerland. The document has the support of dozens of countries.
VOA’s Susan Yackee spoke about Amnesty’s position with its representative at the U.N. in New York, Jose Luis Diaz.
Yackee: What is your reaction to this announcement?
Diaz: We welcome the initiative led by Switzerland, which has been signed on to by 56 other countries. We think it’s high time the [United Nations] Security Council finally decided to act strongly, and to send the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, so that the international community makes sure that those who are responsible for the crimes that have been committed and continue to be committed in Syria don’t escape justice.
“We’ve seen the gamut of crimes – crimes against humanity, war crimes, massive human rights violation….” – Jose Luis Diaz, Amnesty International
Yackee: What kind of crimes do you have?
Diaz: We’ve seen the gamut of crimes – crimes against humanity, war crimes, massive human rights violations ranging from forces disappearance, extrajudicial executions, torture, executions of prisoners, indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilians… and we are seeing it on a daily basis almost in Syria.
Yackee: And Amnesty has seen evidence of this?
Diaz: We have seen evidence, we have collected evidence of this, and have been calling for the situation in Syria to be sent to the International Criminal Court, starting shortly after the beginning of the conflict in Syria, because we saw at the time evidence of crimes against humanity being committed in Syria, along with massive human rights violations.
Yackee: As you well know, the United Nations is not known for quick action. What are you expecting will happen with this next?
Diaz: We see that a number of countries are signing on and adhering to this call, and the thinking that this situation should be brought to the ICC is growing. Among the countries that signed Switzerland’s letter are five Security Council members – unfortunately, among those who are not signatories are Russia and China, along with the United States (the three countries are not members of the ICC – ed.). Russia and China have been blocking decisive action in the Security Council for a long time now, almost for the two years that the conflict has been going on in Syria, but we would like to see even more countries sign up – the U.S. and the rest of the members of the Security Council also sign up for this call, and increase the pressure on Russia and China, so that that there is more and more demand, and we hope that this could move them to act in a decisive way in the Security Council.
Yackee: Would this target the Syrian president?
Diaz: This would actually target anybody who is suspected of committing or ordering these kinds of crimes. We have this overwhelming amount of evidence that has been collected not only by Amnesty and other human rights groups, but also by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the situation in Syria point to these crimes having been committed by security forces and the authorities, but there have also been war crimes and other abuses committed by opposition groups. So, referral to the International Criminal Court would look at the whole situation and would investigate anybody who is suspected of committing these crimes.
Listen to the interview with Amnesty’s Jose Luis Diaz:
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Susan Yackee is anchor and producer of VOA's audio podcast, Middle East Monitor. She has been a reporter in the Washington area for more than 35 years and regularly interviews newsmakers and analysts in DC and around the world. Susan works in television, radio and social media.