This was the fourth time Russia - a close ally of Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad's government - and China have blocked U.N. Security
Council action on Syria during the three-year civil war that has
killed more than 150,000 people.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said the
victims of the conflict "deserve to have history record those who
stood with them and those who were willing to raise their hands to
deny them a chance at justice."
"Our grandchildren will ask us years from now how we could have
failed to bring justice to people living in hell on earth," Power
told the council after the vote.
There were more than 60 co-sponsors of the French-drafted
resolution, diplomats said. The resolution was put to a vote with
the knowledge that it would be vetoed. The remaining 13 members of
the council voted in favor of the resolution.
"If members of the council continue to be unable to agree on a
measure that could provide some accountability for the ongoing
crimes, the credibility of this body and of the entire organization
will continue to suffer," U.N. Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson
told the council on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The ICC prosecutor cannot investigate the situation in Syria without
a referral from the 15-member Security Council because Damascus is
not a member of the Rome Statute that established The Hague-based
court a decade ago. The Security Council has previously referred
Libya and Darfur, Sudan to the ICC.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin questioned why the resolution
was put to a vote when it would again expose disunity in the
council, which had previously been able to agree on resolutions on
the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and demanding greater
humanitarian aid access in the country.
"The draft resolution rejected today reveals an attempt to use the
ICC to further inflame political passions and lay the groundwork in
the end for eventual outside military intervention," Churkin told
"We're convinced that justice in Syria will eventually prevail.
Those guilty of perpetrating grave crimes will be punished but in
order for this to happen peace is first needed," Churkin said.
French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud dismissed Churkin's explanation.
"It's a very sad day," he said. "Russia has not explained really
well why it was opposing this referral."
Chinese Deputy Ambassador Wang Min defended China's veto, saying
Beijing has long had reservations about the council referring
conflicts to the International Criminal Court. Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokesman Hong Lei echoed that statement.
"The Security Council submitting the Syria issue to the
International Criminal Court will only make the situation even more
complex and the problem even more difficult to solve," Hong said in
a briefing in Beijing on Thursday.
"Ultimately, those suffering are the people of Syria and other
countries in the region."
Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite called the double veto "an
endorsement of impunity." Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan warned
of the cost of the deadlock: "When we fail, as we have again on
Syria today, the consequences can be devastating."
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Rwanda, which has been one of the fiercest critics of the ICC and
international war crimes tribunals, voted in favor, saying the
Security Council cannot be inured to mass atrocities of the kind the
Rwandans faced in the 1994 genocide.
Syria's U.N. Ambassador
Bashar Ja'afari told the council the resolution was a bid to
undermine a June 3 presidential poll.
EVIDENCE OF CRIMES
U.N. investigators said in March they had expanded their list of
suspected war criminals from both sides in the civil war and that
the evidence was solid enough to prepare any court indictment.
U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay told the Security Council last
month that human rights violations by Syrian government forces "far
outweigh" those by armed opposition groups.
British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the council: "The
perpetrators of appalling crimes in Syria may be able to hide behind
Russian and Chinese vetoes for now, but they will not be able to
evade justice forever."
Ja'afari said the Syrian government had established a national
committee at the beginning of the crisis to investigate all crimes
"This confirms the desire and the ability of the Syrian Government
to achieve justice and denies any pretext to involve any
international judicial body that conflicts with the national
judiciary's powers," Ja'afari told the council.
Although the United States is not a party to the ICC, it agreed to
support the draft resolution after ensuring that Israel would be
protected from any possible prosecution at the International
Criminal Court related to its occupation of the Golan Heights in
Syria, U.N. diplomats said.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war and
annexed the strategic plateau in a move the world has not
recognized. Syrian troops are not allowed in an area of separation -
monitored by U.N. peacekeepers - under a 1973 ceasefire formalized
Eleven countries on the Security Council are members of the
International Criminal Court. Like the United States, Russia, China
and Rwanda are not.
(Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan in BEIJING; Editing by
Sofina Mirza-Reid and Paul Tait)
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