UN rights chief, nations condemn Security Council on Syria

The UN human rights chief and several nations criticised the Security Council Monday for failing to take action to halt spiralling violence in Syria and bring to justice perpetrators of abuses in the conflict.

"The Security Council has so far failed with regard to Syria," Navi Pillay told ministers at the start of a regular UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.

Pillay said her office had pushed for the Security Council to refer the conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC) after "repeated reports of widespread or systematic crimes and violations."

The ICC can only investigate war crimes if asked to do so by the Security Council but the body is deadlocked in its handling of the conflict by disagreements between its Western members and staunch Syrian ally Russia, plus China.

"For close to two years, the international community has failed to put a stop to the carnage," said UN General Assembly president Vuk Jeremic.

The UN estimates that more than 70,000 people have died in the two years since the Syrian government began a crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

In its latest report published this month, a UN commission of inquiry found that war crimes by both government forces and rebels were spiralling with the conflict becoming increasingly radicalised and sectarian.

It also called for the Security Council to refer the conflict to the ICC.

"For how long we, the international community, will allow this humanitarian tragedy to continue?" Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu asked the council.

President Bashar al-Assad's regime "has lost its legitimacy," he said.

Davutoglu stressed that the Security Council had the responsibility to help ensure that humanitarian assistance reached all of the estimated more than four million Syrians in desperate need.

"It is incomprehensible to hinder humanitarian access," he said, calling for a Security Council resolution "to ensure humanitarian access and introduce measures to those who prevent such access."

Frans Timmermanns, the foreign minister of The Netherlands, also insisted the ICC address the Syrian crisis.

"The bloodshed must stop," he said.

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said the world was witnessing a "human catastrophe, a humanitarian catastrophe".

Switzerland last month filed a petition signed by 57 countries calling for the ICC to open a case on war crimes in Syria.

Voicing support for a political solution to the conflict, Burkhalter said Switzerland was open to hosting another international meeting following one last June at which world powers agreed on a political transition plan.