* More than 60,000 dead in Syria's 21-month conflict
* Both sides accused of committing atrocities
* Security Council unlikely to refer Syria to ICC
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 14 More than 50 countries
asked the U.N. Security Council on Monday to refer the Syria
crisis to the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes
people for genocide and war crimes, in order to send a signal to
More than 60,000 people have been killed during a
21-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,
which began with peaceful protests but turned violent after
Assad's forces cracked down on demonstrators.
Both sides have been accused of committing atrocities, but
the United Nations says the government and its allies have been
more culpable. U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay has also called for
Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
"We are firmly of the view that the Security Council must
ensure accountability for the crimes that seem to have been and
continue to be committed in the Syrian Arab Republic and send a
clear signal to the Syrian authorities," read the letter sent by
Switzerland on behalf of more than 50 states.
"The situation on the ground has only become more desperate,
with attacks on the civilian population and the commission of
atrocities having almost become the norm," read the letter,
supported by permanent council members France and Britain.
The United States, China and Russia, the other three
permanent council members, are not members of the ICC.
World powers are divided over how to stop the escalating
violence in Syria and the 15-member council is unlikely to refer
the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court in
The Hague - which is not an official U.N. body.
Permanent Security Council members Russia and China have
acted as Syria's protector on the council by repeatedly blocking
Western efforts to take stronger U.N. action - such as imposing
sanctions - against the Syrian government to try to end the war.
"At the very least, the council should send out an
unequivocal message urging the Syrian authorities and all other
parties to fully respect international human rights and
humanitarian law in the ongoing conflict," read the letter.
The letter said the council should announce "that it intends
to refer the situation to the ICC unless a credible, fair and
independent accountability process is being established in a
Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute, which set up the
International Criminal Court, so the only way the court can
investigate the situation is if it receives a referral from the
Security Council. The council has previously referred conflicts
in Libya and Darfur, Sudan to the court.
International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has unsuccessfully
tried to get Russia and the United States to agree on how to end
the violence in Syria.
Brahimi has said the main sticking point was the issue of
Assad. The United States, European powers and Gulf-led Arab
states insist he must step down to end the war, but Russia has
said Assad's exit cannot be a precondition for a peace deal.
Brahimi's predecessor, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan, warned on Monday that if no political proposals were put
forward then a stalemate could be created. Annan had blamed the
Security Council impasse for hampering his six-month bid to
broker peace and leading to his decision to step down. ž
"Those who are saying mediation is a waste of time have
offered no alternative, they are hoping for intervention, but I
haven't seen any countries lining up to intervene," Annan told
reporters. "You have a situation where you have a sectarian war
coming up and Syria can explode beyond its borders."