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Stalemate UN Syrian commissioner Del Ponte to resign over lack of political will

Earlier this year. Del Ponte called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “one of the worst criminals”.

(Keystone)

Carla Del Ponte, member of the United Nations-appointed Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, has announced her intention to resign from her post. 

The former Swiss Attorney General and ex-prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) says she is resigning from the commission, decrying UN Security Council inaction to hold criminals accountable and lack of "political will" to support the UN Syrian commissionexternal link

"I decided to present my resignation. I have already prepared my letter," she told a panel discussion on the sidelines of the Locarno Film Festival on Sunday. "I am resigned," she said. 

"I leave this commission which is not backed by any political will," she added. The Ticino native went on to claim that her presence on the UN commission was nothing more than an "alibi". 

"I have no power as long as the Security Council does nothing," she said. "We are powerless, there is no justice for Syria.” 

International Commission of Inquiry

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry was set up in August 2011 under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Del Ponte joined the commission in September 2012.

Investigators have been gathering information and reporting on human rights violations in Syria such as chemical weapons attacks, a genocide against Iraq's Yazidi population, siege tactics, and the bombing of aid convoys. 

"We have had absolutely no success," she told the Swiss tabloid paper Blick on Sunday. "For five years we've been running up against walls."

Last straw

Del Ponte reserved special criticism for the UN General Assembly's recent decision to appoint former French judge Catherine Marchi-Uhel as head of a newly created UN commissionexternal link to document and prepare prosecutions of violations international law in Syria. Del Ponte was unhappy that Marchi-Uhel had got the job as she has no previous experience as a prosecutor. 

Despite the creation of this new UN body, there is no sign of any court being established to try war crimes committed in the Syrian war, nor of any intention by the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Del Ponte joked on Swiss Public Television, RTS, that she would not change her mind unless the UN created an international tribunal for Syria and she was made chief prosecutor.

Work to go on

Following her announcement, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry said in a statement that Del Ponte had informed colleagues in June of her decision to leave in the near future. It said the investigations would continue.

"It is our obligation to persist in its work on behalf of the countless number of Syrian victims of the worst human rights violations and international crimes known to humanity," it said.

Del Ponte's departure leaves only two commissioners, Brazil's Paulo Pinheiro and Karen Koning AbuZayd from the United States.

The former Swiss prosecutor is known for her strong, and sometimes controversial public positions. In May 2013, she said the UN had "strong suspicions" of Syrian rebels using sarin gas.

Earlier this year, Del Ponte called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “one of the worst criminals”.

And when the commission reported this year on Syrian government aircraft deliberately bombing a humanitarian convoy, she expressed her frustration with the inability to bring the perpetrators to justice.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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