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U.S. backs referral of Syria file to ICC

France is drafting a resolution to involve ICC in Syria, but any draft bill is expected to be vetoed by Russia

Published: Updated:

The United States supports a French proposal to refer the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said on Wednesday.

“The United States supports the referral to the International Criminal Court set forth in the draft resolution under discussion,” Meehan said.

“We have long said those responsible for atrocities in Syria must be held accountable and we have been working with our Security Council colleagues on a draft resolution toward this end. We will also continue to support efforts to gather evidence to hold accountable those responsible for atrocities in Syria,” she added.

French ambassador to the U.N. Gerard Araud said Tuesday that France seeks to introduce the resolution in the next few weeks, following a presentation to council members of a gruesome dossier containing thousands of photos showing detainees who had been starved or tortured in prisons run by the Syrian regime.

“We are going to try to obtain authorization for the ICC to act,” Araud said.

“We now have proof,” he added, referring to the dossier of evidence compiled by “Caesar,” the codename given to a defector who captured the images before fleeing Syria.

The “Caesar Report,” sponsored and funded by Qatar, a staunch supporter of opposition forces in Syria's bloody civil war, states that 11,000 people died in regime jails between 2011 and 2013. The report contains some 55,000 images depicting abuse of victims.

Two of the experts who examined the photos and authenticated claims made by the defector say the dossier represents credible evidence to be put before the ICC.

“Our judgement is that all this evidence is credible,” said David Crane, former chief prosecutor for the special tribunal on Sierra Leone that indicted Charles Taylor.

“We were skeptical at first; as chief prosecutors, we rarely get direct and specific evidence of crimes against humanity.”

Crane also said the scale of atrocities was likely to be greater.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, it is a snapshot of three detention centers and there are 50,” he said.

The resolution however is almost certain to be vetoed by Syria's ally Russia as well as China.

But Western diplomats say even in the event of a Russian veto, the measure would continue to pile pressure on Damascus while accentuating Russia's isolation on the council.

Araud said the presentation of the grisly “Caesar” dossier to council members, including Russia's representative, had been “followed by several minutes of silence.”

[With AFP]