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War Crimes Expert Carla Del Ponte Resigns From U.N.'s Syria Inquiry

Aug 8, 2017
Originally published on August 8, 2017 6:27 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A former war crimes prosecutor has decided that she is done. She's had enough of serving on a U.N. Syria commission because, in her words, the commission does absolutely nothing. This commission was investigating human rights violations. They released around a dozen reports on atrocities, but the United Nations never referred Syria to the International Criminal Court. Carla Del Ponte is the former prosecutor. She's on the line now from her home in Switzerland. Thanks for joining us.

CARLA DEL PONTE: Good morning for me, yes.

GREENE: Well - so tell me why you decided to quit this commission.

DEL PONTE: Myself and my colleagues in the commission, we could not do it. We could not achieve that. We were many time - Security Council in New York we were all called. We present twice a year a report to the Council of Human Rights. We travel around the world to persuade the states. No, nothing happened. Justice is not an issue to discuss. And so I got enough. And I quit.

GREENE: You had enough and quit. How much do you point the finger at Russia? Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council. They can veto anything. And they, of course, support the government of Bashar al-Assad. Are they a big reason that nothing has happened, in your mind?

DEL PONTE: Absolutely because they are putting the veto right - that no resolution for the constitution of the international tribunal. So, of course, Russia (unintelligible) because in the end what I mean is that the other states are not making pressure to Russia to change in his opinion. But in any case, that's politics. So myself - I'm ready to be prosecutor of a tribunal for Syria, but I'm not ready to continue to sit in this commission that just is an alibi for the international community.

GREENE: I just want to finish by asking you, I mean, you've worked doing this kind of work with Rwanda and the genocide there, with the former Yugoslavia. How does the war in Syria compare to those conflicts?

DEL PONTE: Well, you know, what I see myself is that the crimes that are committed in Syria are even much, much more horrible and terrifying what is happening in Syria. I never saw that kind of brutality. Not in the former Yugoslavia, not in Rwanda, but in Syria we are seeing atrocities that we can't even imagine. And that is something more why it's not possible to obtain justice.

GREENE: Is it all sides, not just the government in Syria?

DEL PONTE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, all sides, All sides. But, you know, at the beginning in 2011, it was the government, the opposition - democratic opposition was the good side. But now, they are all all, all, all committing crimes. All parties on this conflict are committing crimes.

GREENE: That's former war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte speaking to us from Switzerland. Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

DEL PONTE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.