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The realities of the Syrian conflict: Carla del Ponte

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The realities of the Syrian conflict: Carla del Ponte

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Death, brutality and suffering: the cruel realities of the Syrian conflict. A people scarred and a country ravaged, where rebels and government forces battle for supremacy while the outside world struggles, so far unsuccessfully, for solutions.

What’s more, increasing international tension over the conflict has also raised the spectre of a proxy war. To discuss the situation, euronews’ Isabelle Kumar spoke to Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

Carla del Ponte, many thanks for joining us on Italk. As I mentioned you are part of this investigating commission on Syria, which reported new levels of brutality. Now, you’re certainly not new to this game, what stood out for you?

Carla del Ponte:

Good afternoon, we have issued the fifth report and we can see that the crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity, are growing. There is much more commission of crimes, much more brutality and as it was in the other reports, we have crimes from both sides.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

What crimes are we talking about? What really stood out for you in terms of the crimes committed?

Carla del Ponte:

All sorts of violent crimes from killing, torture, sexual violence, executions, deportations. If you look at a list of the possible war crimes and crimes against humanity you have all of them included in what’s happening now in Syria. And at the end we have all the elements of chemical weapons.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

We are going to now go to our first question that is about chemical weapons.

Anna (Poland):

Hi, my name is Anna, I am from Poland, and I want to ask a question. Is there any proof of chemical weapons in Syria, and how would this influence the situation?

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

So there is certainly very strong evidence but you’re lacking the incontrovertible proof aren’t you, if you’re not allowed to go into the country?

Carla del Ponte:

Exactly, in the report you can read that we identify four locations where chemical weapons were used but the investigation is ongoing. The Secretary General appointed a special mechanism to investigate and we need experts on this issue. I think the best thing now, if the Commission can establish that chemical weapons were used from both parties, we must wait until the investigation is done, properly done and finished.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

Do you think the UN will be allowed to get into the country to get this proof that is required?

Carla del Ponte:

I think so and I hope that all the members of the Commission will be allowed to enter Syria. We are hindered in our work in our activities while we have no access to Syria, so not only the special investigators on chemical weapons but we should be able to enter Syria as soon as possible.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

Do you have any idea of a time frame as to when you might possibly be able to enter?

Carla del Ponte:

No, absolutely not, unfortunately not. But we are still asking the UN, the Russian and all other states that can help us have access to Syria. I hope that when the negotiations in Geneva start it will also be an issue to discuss that the Commission will be able to enter Syria, yes it is extremely important.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

Back in May you caused some controversy with your statements when you said there was evidence that the rebels had been using chemical weapons, do you regret having said that?

Carla del Ponte:

No absolutely not and I confirm that, but of course there is not conclusive evidence. There are first elements of an investigation and so let’s see what will happen during the investigation but we have some elements, of course, otherwise I would not speak about it.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

But the evidence seems to show that the chemical weapons are used more by the regime than by the rebels.

Carla del Ponte:

I don’t know. Now it is time to wait and to have the final results of the investigation.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

We are going to go now to our next question which we have received by social media and that is from Mahmoud who’s a Syrian national, and he asks:

“Why does the west say a lot and do little? When will the war end?”.

It’s a good point and I think it’s a feeling that is reflected by a lot of people, there’s a sense of frustration that things aren’t moving fast enough. This war has been going on for 2 years, there’s tens of thousands of deaths but the West seems to be dithering.

Carla del Ponte:

What I can say is that all the victims are expecting peace and justice and if you think about how many people are displaced in Syria, inside and outside Syria, you have 19 million inhabitants suffering from this civil war and it is incredible. So I hope that very very soon it will be possible to obtain peace.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

And do you still hold out hope for this Geneva peace conference, given the fact that it’s very difficult to get an opposition to take part because it is not represented?

Carla del Ponte:

I read in the press about the difficulties, but I have full confidence in Russia and the United States that are the two countries who have organised this conference.

Maybe it will take some more time but I hope, because the situation is tragic, very very tragic, and the victims – the survivors – are expecting to be able to live a normal life with democracy, particularly with respect to human rights.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

You’ve called in the past for the Assad regime to be held accountable at the International Criminal Court. Do you still maintain that?

Carla del Ponte:

Yes, justice is a very urgent element, unfortunately the security council can not agree. So, the ICC is not possible if the security council don’t act in this direction.

It is possible to look for other solutions, it could be an ad hoc tribunal but the ICC, and we mention that in our report, would be the best solution. In particular for the those that are very highly responsible, because after there are a lot of executors, a lot of low level perpetraters, who the ICC could not deal with.

It will be national justice or an ad hoc tribunal. I think it is extremely important because, in my experience I know, there is no peace without justice. I will confirm that, and I hope really that the international community will act very very soon.

Isabelle Kumar, euronews:

Carla del Ponte, many thanks for joining us on Italk.

That’s all for now, to find out who our next guest on Italk will be check out our website or follow us on social media. Until the next edition from the European Parliament studios in Brussels, I’m Isabelle Kumar, thanks for joining us.