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UN Syria investigators seek access to Security Council

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A UN commission of inquiry on Syria called Monday for direct access to the UN Security Council to make the case for referring crimes committed in the war-torn country to the International Criminal Court.

"We want access... directly to the Security Council and the General Assembly," said Vitit Muntarbhorn, one of the four investigators who make up the commission.

Until now, the commission has only had informal access to the Security Council on two occasions, he told reporters in Geneva, insisting the investigators need "official access" amid an intensification of violations on the ground.

The commission, which on Monday presented the findings of its report published last month to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, reiterated that both the government forces and their allies and opposition forces were carrying out war crimes in Syria.

Commission head Paulo Pinheiro, of Brazil, stressed meanwhile that the regime forces appeared to be responsible to a larger extent for more far-reaching crimes against humanity in the country.

The commission is set to soon submit a confidential list of names of suspected perpetrators to the UN human rights office, and has repeatedly urged the deadlocked UN Security Council to refer the cases to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The investigators insisted Monday that "justice for the Syrian people should not be deferred."

Syria has been embroiled in conflict since Bashar al-Assad's regime launched a brutal crackdown on protests that erupted in March 2011. The United Nations says at least 70,000 people have been killed, while over one million Syrians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.

In their report, the UN investigators said they had received information about 20 massacres -- or mass killings of civilians or soldiers off the battlefield -- between September and January alone.

They said they could not compare to the period before September since they did not before have a mandate to probe massacres.

Out of the 20 alleged massacres, eight had been corroborated by the investigators, including six committed by government forces and two by anti-government forces, commission member and legendary former UN chief war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte told reporters.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130311/un-syria-investigators-seek-access-security-council