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Vote in the Security Council on a draft resolution referring the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

Published Thursday May 22 2014

Explanation of vote by H.E. Ms. Sylvie Lucas, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg:
Mr. President,

For more than three years, Syria has been falling further and further each day into the horror of blind violence which kills in total impunity. This total impunity is one of the reasons that the parties to the conflict in Syria continue to unleash a bloodbath where civilians are the primary victims.

Evidence of the atrocities committed in Syria is piling up over the course of reports, be it the reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council, the reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the “Caesar” report on systematic torture committed on an industrial scale in Syrian prisons, or the reports of NGOs, in particular on the use of barrel bombs against civilians. Syria is in a state of war, but not all is fair in war. Even war has its rules under international law, and those rules are violated every day in Syria.

More than 160,000 people have already lost their lives in the course of the Syrian conflict. The list of atrocities committed in Syria is way too long to enumerate all of them, but here I would just like to highlight the unspeakable suffering inflicted upon children in the conflict. More than 10,000 children have been killed. Countless children have been injured or maimed by aerial bombardments in populated areas, with the indiscriminate use of weapons such as cluster munitions and barrel bombs by Syrian government forces. Children are arrested, recruited as combatants, arbitrarily detained, abused and tortured. Many children have become victims of sexual violence or have disappeared. All parties to the conflict have targeted schools and hospitals or used them for military means.

To put an end to the conflict and to the atrocities perpetrated in Syria, it is indispensable to work towards a political solution. Everybody acknowledges this. But the efforts to come to a political solution have reached a deadlock, principally due to the Syrian authorities’ refusal to discuss a genuine political transition. For our part, it is unacceptable that this political deadlock is used by some of our partners as a pretext to prevent us from taking measures to combat impunity in Syria. Combating impunity is not incompatible with seeking a political solution, quite to the contrary. Combating impunity is to combat precisely what stokes war and violence. Combating impunity is deterring the perpetrators of crimes from committing more crimes in the future. We are deeply convinced that justice is a key ingredient, a necessary ingredient to bring peace back to Syria.  

This is the reason that, since January 2013, with 57 other States, Luxembourg has untiringly advocated for the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria since March 2011 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, without exception and without distinction of the alleged perpetrators of crimes. Syrian victims urge us to give them at least that: a glimmer of hope that in the end, justice will be served, that the perpetrators of the appalling crimes committed in Syria will be held accountable for their actions. The ICC was created precisely to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, and to effectively ensure the punishment of these crimes when a State is either unwilling or unable to do so. This is indeed the case in Syria.

For this reason, Luxembourg has co-sponsored and voted in favor of the draft resolution presented by France for the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria since March 2011 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Beyond what we are divided by, there is a core of common values, a shared humanity and a shared faith in the dignity and the worth of the human person which should bring us together and bring about unanimity in the Security Council. The draft resolution presented by France reflected these common values. Without polarizing, it sought to refer to the ICC the violations committed by all parties to the conflict in Syria: the widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and pro-government militias, on the one hand, as well as the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by non-State armed groups, on the other hand.

It is with deep regret that we must observe that our shared humanity, our shared values did not prevail today and the resolution was not adopted, due to the negative vote cast by two permanent members, Russia and China.

This double veto is harmful in two respects. It seriously impacts the future of the Syrian people who live every day through the horrors of a spiral of violence without end. It also affects the credibility and effectiveness of the Security Council, making it inactive in the face of impunity.

Today’s vote has exposed the deadlock of the Security Council caused by an improper use of the veto right. In this regard, Luxembourg supports France’s proposal for the five permanent members of the Council to abstain from using the veto right in situations of mass atrocities, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Such a voluntary code of conduct would strengthen the credibility of the Council and first and foremost its effectiveness in protecting civilians.

In spite of today’s vote, we shall not give up. In the face of war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Syria, we will not cease to call for justice for the Syrian people. And we will not lose hope that our shared humanity will, in the end, prevail.

I thank you.