United States Investigating Syrian War Crimes

Posted by BBC News on Jun 18th, 2011 and filed under Popular Movements. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

The United States is collecting information on possible war crimes by Syrian security forces amid a violent crackdown on opposition demonstrators, a senior Obama administration official claimed Friday.

In a telephone briefing with reporters, the official said the United States is “searching into … whether there are reasons here for charges related to war crimes,” and whether or not referrals to the International Criminal Court are appropriate.

The comments arrive as the White House faces stress from critics who say the Obama administration has been slow to respond to the Syrian government’s assault against pro-democracy demonstrators.

The official also asserted that the United States is thinking about further economic pressure on the Syrian government, including sanctions on the country’s oil and gas sector.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is lobbying members of the U.N. Security Council to support a resolution on Syria that, as another administration official placed it, “would send a strong message to President Assad.”

“One desires to be able to make sure you have all of the five permanent members of the Security Council on board for a resolution,” the official said, “and you want to make sure that you have got at least the largest number of yes votes that one could. And so there’s just continuous consultations in New York to make certain we can have the broadest-based support for the Security Council.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday, but State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland gave no details, saying only “it was a good conversation.”

Clinton, so far, has not spoken with China which, like Russia, is assumed to be reluctant to help any U.N. resolution.

Critics have asserted that the administration is pulling its punches on Syria, in distinction to its quick action at the U.N. Security Council to complete a resolution authorizing the use of force to safeguard Libyans from violence by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

“I agree that in a perfect world we should be moving faster, that this is going slowly,” one administration official explained.

But, the official included, “what we’re performing is, again, we’re actively building a broad-based strategy with our partners bilaterally, multilaterally, regionally, internationally in order to make sure that we’re all shifting ahead in a sensible way that backs the Syrian people themselves.”

U.S. officials say the situation in Syria differs greatly from the problem in Libya.

“There hasn’t been a galvanizing effect, such as Gadhafi’s threat … to literally raze Benghazi to the ground,” the official told reporters. “But there, nevertheless, is an appalling, appalling amount of physical violence and death that you see us, the international community, responding to and … we’re operating with our partners to make sure that the response is as effective as feasible.”

The Syrian government, this official added, “seems to be beginning to reach out” to some members of the opposition. The opposition, however, still fears arrest and other people are in hiding.

“You cannot do sort of conversation negotiation while you try to reach out on the one hand but you still are injecting worry — fear of arrest, fear of hatred — on the other hand,” the official said.

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