Syria's death toll is "probably now approaching 70,000" people, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has said. The UN Security Council's inaction was to blame for the ongoing conflict, she added.
"The UN Security Council is best when it acts with a unified voice," Pillay told a UN Security Council debate Tuesday on the protection of civilians caught up in the two-year conflict.
Speaking in New York, Pillay said "the lack of consensus on Syria and the resulting inaction has been disastrous and civilians on all sides have paid the price."
"We will be judged against the tragedy that has unfolded before our eyes."
Pillay was ultra-critical of the council for arriving at a political consensus on the Mali conflict, but not Syria. She insisted the Security Council needs to refer the Syria crisis to the International Criminal Court (ICC) responsible for prosecuting cases of genocide and war crimes.
The 15-member council, she added, must send a message to both sides in the conflict that there would be consequences for their actions.
Last month, more than 50 countries requested the Security Council refer Syria to The Hague-based court. Syria did not ratify the 1998 Rome Statute, which allowed for the establishment of the ICC. For the court to consider the situation, it needs a referral from the Security Council.
Permanent Security Council members China and Russia have repeatedly blocked Western attempts for stronger UN action, such as government sanctions.
Both sides in the Syrian conflict have been accused of committing atrocities, but the UN reports President Bashar Assad's forces have been more culpable.
"Syria is self-destructing," UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon told a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations on Monday evening.
"After nearly two years, we can no longer count days in hours, but in bodies. Another day, another 100, 200, 300 dead."
"The Security Council must no longer stand on the sidelines, dead-locked, silently witnessing the slaughter."
On January 2, Pillay told reporters more than 60,000 people had been killed during the nearly two-year conflict within the country, which began as a peaceful uprising against Assad's regime but turned into a violent civil war.
Meanwhile, opposition sources said rebel fighters had captured the Al-Jarrah military airfield, located 46 kilometers (28 miles) to the east of Aleppo on Tuesday, after days of sporadic clashes.
Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the opposition-linked Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in London, said the capture of the base meant that the rebels now had control of fighter jets that had been carrying out airstrikes on their positions around the country.
Speaking to the Reuters news agency by telephone, Abu Abdallah Minbig, an opposition commander said the capture of the airport had “cut the [President Bashar Assad] regime's supply line from Aleppo to the east.”
Video footage posted online by opposition activists showed a number of what appeared to be military planes, parked and covered in a hangar at what was purportedly Al-Jarrah, along with what appeared to be artillery ammunition piled up against a nearby wall.
jlw/dr (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)
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