Syria: 57 states call on the United Nations Security Council to refer case to the International Criminal Court (ICC)

United Nations Security Council diplomats vote on a resolution during a meeting on Libya at U.N. headquarters in New York

A letter sent to the United Nations Security Council on behalf of 57 states calling for a referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) gives momentum to international efforts to stop grave abuses committed there. More countries should join the call and impress on reluctant Council members the urgency of taking up the issue of accountability.

The letter– sent by Switzerland on January 14, 2013, and signed by states including France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Botswana, Tunisia, Japan, and Costa Rica – points to a pervasive climate of impunity in Syria and concludes that the Security Council must therefore act to fill this accountability gap. Signatories hail from all regions of world and represent a significant cross-section of UN member states.

Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty establishing the ICC. Therefore, the ICC could only obtain jurisdiction over crimes in Syria if the Security Council refers the situation there to the court. The Council’s referral authority significantly extends accountability for grave international crimes for which there would otherwise be no justice, Human Rights Watch said. The Council has referred situations only twice, in regards to the Darfur region of Sudan in 2005 and Libya in 2011. The body, however, has failed to act on other key occasions where there was strong evidence of widespread and serious international crimes and little prospect of local accountability, such as during the deadly conflict in Sri Lanka.

Source: Human Rights Watch, Jan. 14, 2013,

For the letter see: Swiss Permanent Missoin to the UN, Jan. 14, 2013, ttp://