UN Syria investigator Carla del Ponte quits over lack of political backing

Former war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has announced she is quitting a United Nations commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria because it ‘does absolutely nothing’

Carla del Ponte
Carla del Ponte

A member of the UN commission of inquiry on Syria said on Sunday she was quitting because a lack of political backing from the UN Security Council had made the job impossible, according to reports.

Carla del Ponte, 70, who prosecuted war crimes in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, has served on the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria for nearly five years, chronicling incidents such as chemical weapons attacks, a genocide against Iraq’s Yazidi population, siege tactics, and the bombing of aid convoys.

She told a panel discussion on the sidelines of the Locarno film festival she had already prepared her letter of resignation, according to Swiss national news agency SDA.

“I am quitting this commission, which is not backed by any political will,” she said, adding that her role was just 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.”

Syria's civil war has left more than 300,000 people dead and displaced millions.

The brief of the commission is to investigate human rights violations and war crimes in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011.

It has released about a dozen reports but investigators have never gained access to Syria itself, instead relying on interviews, photos, medical records and other documents.

Del Ponte said she has never seen such crimes before, not in the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda.

She and the other commission members have repeatedly called on the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

In a statement, the UN commission thanked Del Ponte for her contributions to its work "and for her personal efforts and interventions to support the cause of justice". It added 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,” the commission said.

Del Ponte’s departure leaves only two commissioners, Brazil’s Paulo Pinheiro and Karen Koning AbuZayd from the US.

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