Germany: UN should endorse Syria sanctions

AP News
Posted: Nov 28, 2011 6:31 PM
Germany: UN should endorse Syria sanctions

The U.N. Security Council should endorse the Arab League's weekend decision to slap sanctions on Syria for its eight-month crackdown on civilians, Germany's ambassador said Monday.

Ambassador Peter Wittig's country is among the 15 Security Council members.

"The decision of the Arab League was a really remarkable if not historic decision," he said. "It was a reaction to the brutal crackdown _ and the message of course is clear. If (President Bashar) Assad doesn't heed the call, then there will be biting sanctions.

"I think the council cannot stand idly by regarding what the regional organization has said so strongly: the council should take up that decision and endorse and reinforce it. We are going to deliberate about this in the course of the day."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters after council consultations that "we think it is time to revisit the question" of possible action by the group. "We certainly will be talking with partners inside and outside the council," she added.

The Arab League actions include cutting off transactions with Syria's central bank, and would further squeeze a national economy already under sanctions by the U.S. and the European Union.

No formal action regarding Syria was on the Monday agenda for the Security Council, which was holding meetings on Yemen and Libya.

Last month, Russia and China vetoed a Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the bloodshed in Syria, arguing that NATO misused a previous U.N. mandate authorizing the use of force in Libya.

Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong told reporters Monday that his country has not changed its position on Syria.

The U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee last week voted overwhelmingly to condemn human rights violations by Assad's government and called for an immediate end to all violence. The resolution is nonbinding, however.

The nongovernmental rights group Amnesty International on Monday called on the far more powerful Security Council to impose its own sanctions on the country, including an arms embargo and a freeze of Assad's assets.

It also wants the council to refer the situation to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

"Amnesty International believes that Syria is unable or unwilling to open an impartial, independent investigation" into the crackdown, Maha Abu Shama, a rights campaigner for the organization, told a Monday briefing on the situation.

"Syrian security forces have committed human rights violations with impunity for decades," she said.

The United Nations estimates at least 3,500 people have been killed on all sides since the protests in Syria began in March. Amnesty International said it has obtained the names of more than 3,200 people, including more than 190 children, who reportedly have been killed in the unrest during that period.