UN Human Rights Commissioner Attacks Security Council for Failure over Syria

By Sam Jones for The Guardian on August 22, 2014—
“The outgoing UN human rights commissioner has launched a blistering attack on the UN security council, saying that “international paralysis” and competing national agendas have cost hundreds of thousands of lives and allowed “killers, destroyers and torturers” in Syria to believe they can act with impunity.

Navi Pillay, whose six-year tenure as UN high commissioner for human rights ends this month, made the comments as figures showed that nearly 200,000 people have been killed in Syria over the past three years.

Analysis by the UN human rights office put the total death toll between March 2011 and the end of April this year at 191,369 – more than double the number of deaths documented a year ago.

“Tragically it is probably an underestimate of the real total number of people killed during the first three years of this murderous conflict,” Pillay said on Friday, adding that she deeply regretted that the proliferation of armed conflicts had pushed the humanitarian disaster in Syria “off the international radar”.

Speaking a day after the security council unanimously adopted a resolution promising more effort to stop wars, Pillay said it was scandalous that the suffering of the Syrian people was going unheeded.

“The killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis,” she said. “There are serious allegations that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed time and time again with total impunity, yet the security council has failed to refer the case of Syria to the international criminal court, where it clearly belongs.”

Her harshest words, however, came on Thursday, when she accused the council – whose permanent members are China, France, Russia, Britain and the US – of a serious dereliction of its duties.

“Short-term geopolitical considerations and national interest, narrowly defined, have repeatedly taken precedence over intolerable human suffering and grave breaches of, and long-term threats to, international peace and security,” she said.”

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