Russia and China block UN measure to investigate Syrian war crimes

BY Joshua Barajas  May 22, 2014 at 2:28 PM EDT
The United Nations General Assembly. Photo by Flickr user Paul VanDerWerf

The United Nations General Assembly. Photo by Flickr user Paul VanDerWerf

Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on Thursday that would allow the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes from both sides in Syria’s ongoing civil war, a three-year conflict that has claimed more than 160,000 lives to date.

The final vote was 13 to 2 in favor of the resolution in the 15-member Security Council, but Russia and China, two permanent council members, blocked the U.N. measure to refer Syria to the war crimes tribunal. This is the fourth time the two countries prevented action against President Bashar Assad’s regime, the Associated Press reports.

Ahead of the vote on Wednesday, Russia’s ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, called the resolution a “publicity stunt” that was counterproductive to resolving the crisis in Syria, while French ambassador Gerard Araud said, “A veto would cover up all crimes.”

Before the vote, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson had pleaded with the 15-member council to “put an end to this long nightmare.”

“If members of the Council continue to be unable to agree on a measure that could provide some accountability for the ongoing crimes, the credibility of this body and of the entire organization will continue to suffer,” Eliasson added, according to NPR’s Michele Kelemen.

After peace talks in Geneva failed to diffuse the crisis in Syria earlier this year, France drafted the resolution, which eventually garnered the support of more than 60 countries, including the United States.