Syria rejects calls to join war crimes tribunal
GENEVA—Syria's government has rejected some nations' demands that it join the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal, release political prisoners and allow unrestricted access to aid groups and medical workers.
The Arab state's comments are included in a report adopted Tuesday by the U.N. Human Rights Council. The report comes as Syrian President Bashar Assad's government presses ahead with a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that has killed nearly 3,000 people since mid-March.
The long list of demands, suggestions and supportive comments were contained in the report on Syria's human rights record, which was prepared over the past year as part of the 47-nation U.N. rights council's regular checkup on all its member nations.
Because of the polarization of views toward Syria, the review led by diplomats from Djibouti, Mexico and Saudi Arabia is essentially a catalogue of recommendations rather than consensus-driven, authoritative document.
As such, the recommendations themselves paint starkly contrasting views of a nation in which the Assads, like many of the nation's elite, are part of the Alawite sect that comprises a small minority in a mostly Sunni country.
The uprising against the Assad regime is part of a string of similar movements in other Arab countries, including ones that successfully toppled autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. In Syria, there are fears the country may be sliding toward civil war.
In the report, Syria ascribes the unrest to "terrorist threats" prompted by "a media war" and "the hegemony of the West, the U.S. and Israel." But it also says it is committed to protecting human rights and building a democratic society "in line with fundamental rule of law principles."
Syria said it already ended all human rights violations and was taking steps to immediately end all acts of torture and hold those accountable for such acts, But it rejected recommendations to join the International Criminal Court and immediately end attacks on peaceful activists and repression of civilians.
Syria's top Sunni Muslim cleric has warned Western countries against military intervention in Syria and threatened to retaliate with suicide bombings in the United States and Europe if his country comes under attack.
Western countries have shown no willingness to open a Libyan-style military campaign against the Assad regime, and NATO's chief said the alliance has "no intention whatsoever" of intervening in Syria. European Union officials, however, are moving to widen sanctions against Assad's regime.
Human Rights Council members Cuba and Venezuela supported Syria, while others such as Japan, Czech Republic, Britain and France said they were deeply worried about the repression and killings of peaceful protesters.
The U.S. strongly condemned Syria for "mass arrests, arbitrary detentions, torture and targeted killings."