Syria death toll near 70,000: UN

Updated 13 February 2013
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Syria death toll near 70,000: UN

UNITED NATIONS: The death toll in Syria is likely approaching 70,000 with civilians paying the price for the UN Security Council’s lack of action to end the nearly 2-year-old conflict, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.
Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, repeated her call for Syria to be referred by the 15-member council to the International Criminal Court to send a message to both parties in the conflict that there would be consequences for their actions.
Pillay told a council debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict that the death toll in Syria was “probably now approaching 70,000.”
On Jan. 2 Pillay said more than 60,000 people had been killed during the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad, which began with peaceful protests but turned violent after Assad’s forces tried to crush the demonstrations.
“The lack of consensus on Syria and the resulting inaction has been disastrous and civilians on all sides have paid the price,” she said. “We will be judged against the tragedy that has unfolded before our eyes.”
World powers are divided on how to stop the escalating violence in Syria and the Security Council is unlikely to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is not an official UN body.
Permanent Security Council members Russia and China have acted as Syria’s protector on the council by repeatedly blocking Western efforts to take stronger UN action — such as sanctions — against the Syrian government to try to end the war.
Both sides to the Syria conflict have been accused of committing atrocities but the United Nations says the government and its allies have been more culpable.
“Syria is self-destructing,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Council on Foreign Relations on Monday evening. “After nearly two years, we no longer count days in hours, but in bodies. Another day, another 100, 200, 300 dead.”
“Fighting rages. Sectarian hatred is on the rise. The catalogue of war crimes is mounting,” he said. “The Security Council must no longer stand on the sidelines, dead-locked, silently witnessing the slaughter.”
More than 50 countries asked the UN Security Council last month to refer the Syria crisis to the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes genocide and war crimes cases.
Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute, which set up the International Criminal Court, so the only way the court can investigate the situation is if it receives a referral from the Security Council. The council has previously referred conflicts in Libya and Darfur, Sudan to the court.


Daesh threatens Iraq polling stations ahead of parliamentary vote

Updated 51 min 30 sec ago
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Daesh threatens Iraq polling stations ahead of parliamentary vote

BAGHDAD: Daesh has threatened to attack Iraqi polling stations and voters during parliamentary elections next month.

In a message posted to the Telegram messaging app on Sunday, Daesh spokesman Abu Hassan Al-MuHajjir called on Sunni Iraqis to boycott the May 12 polls, the first since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi declared victory over Daesh in December.

Extremist groups in Iraq have targeted every election since the 2003 US-led invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein and paved the way for Shiites to dominate every government since.

Under a system of checks and balances designed to avoid a return to dictatorship, the winner of the May 12 elections will have to form alliances with other Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish lists to secure a majority.

An incumbent prime minister, his ousted predecessor and a paramilitary chief instrumental in defeating Daesh are the three favorites vying for Iraq’s premiership.

Two of the favorites topping the lists were among the architects of victory against Daesh, which in 2014 seized a third of Iraq’s territory in a lightning offensive.

The incumbent prime minister, 66 year-old Abadi, took over the reins from Nuri Al-Maliki in September 2014 at the high watermark of the security crisis.

The fightback which allowed Abadi to declare Iraq’s victory over Daesh in December, has silenced critics of his lack of military experience.

An engineering graduate and holder of a doctorate from the University of Manchester in Britain, Abadi is from the same Dawa party as his predecessor Maliki.

As the official head of Iraq’s military, Abadi has bolstered morale by drafting in foreign trainers, who have helped professionalize tens of thousands of soldiers.

Under his watch and backed by a US-led international coalition, the army has banished Daesh from all its urban strongholds in Iraq. 

The Iraqi military has also pushed back the Kurds in the north’s oil-rich Kirkuk province, bolstering Abadi’s status as frontrunner going into the election.

“He has a popular base which transcends confessional and ethnic lines. He offers a narrative as a statesman and he is not tarnished by corruption,” said Iraqi political scientist Essam Al-Fili.

Haddad said: “Abadi remains the single strongest contender but not strong enough to win anything close to a majority.”

His main contender is Hadi Al-Ameri — a leader of Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary network that played a pivotal role in defeating Daesh.

During Maliki’s 2010-2014 term as premier, Ameri was a lawmaker and then transport minister, but he was blocked in a bid to head the Interior Ministry by an American veto.