Key U.N. investigator resigns over Syrian stonewalling

A key member of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry into alleged crimes in Syria resigned today, citing Syria’s ongoing refusal to permit the team into the country to carry out its investigations. Yakin Ertuk, a Turkish national who serves as one of the commission’s three members, made the announcement in a meeting in New York ...

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Michael Nagle/Getty Images
Michael Nagle/Getty Images
Michael Nagle/Getty Images

A key member of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry into alleged crimes in Syria resigned today, citing Syria's ongoing refusal to permit the team into the country to carry out its investigations.

Yakin Ertuk, a Turkish national who serves as one of the commission's three members, made the announcement in a meeting in New York with non-government organizations, according to a source who attended the meeting.

“I resigned today from the Commission of Inquiry because of Syria’s refusal to grant the Commission access. This is one of the main obstacles that hampered the work of the Commission. Without access to Syria the work of the commission is very difficult.” 

A key member of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry into alleged crimes in Syria resigned today, citing Syria’s ongoing refusal to permit the team into the country to carry out its investigations.

Yakin Ertuk, a Turkish national who serves as one of the commission’s three members, made the announcement in a meeting in New York with non-government organizations, according to a source who attended the meeting.

“I resigned today from the Commission of Inquiry because of Syria’s refusal to grant the Commission access. This is one of the main obstacles that hampered the work of the Commission. Without access to Syria the work of the commission is very difficult.” 

The move comes as the U.N. Human Rights Council decided today to extend the commission’s inquiry, allowing it to continue its investigation at least through September. The commission has largely relied on human rights groups, opposition elements, and the testimony of Syrian refugees who fled the violence, primarily into Jordan and Turkey.

The three-member commission, chaired by a Brazilian diplomat and legal scholar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, traveled to New York this week to press the U.N. Security Council to use its influence to convince the government to invite the team into the country to conduct its investigation. Karin Konig Abuzayd is the third member.

"I hope that our friends in the Security Council will try to convince the Syrian government that it is in its own interest that we enter Syria," Pinheiro told reporters this week.

Last month, the commission concluded that Syria’s top military commanders and government officials have committed widespread and systematic human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity. It presented the U.N. Human Rights Council with a secret list of the names of individuals and military units suspected of bearing greatest responsibility for orchestrating or carrying out these abuses.

The report, which was released this morning in Geneva, represents a devastating account of the Syrian government’s role in using excessive force — including the indiscriminate shelling of restive towns — to crush an uprising that began in March 2011, as a peaceful protest movement. The commission also documented rights violations by members of the armed opposition movement formed by military defectors, which has drawn increasingly from members of the general population.

But it said the overwhelming majority of abuses were carried out by government security forces and pro-government militias. "The government has manifestly failed in its responsibility to protect the populations; its forces have committed widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity, with the apparent knowledge and consent of the highest levels of the State" reads the commission report. It added: "anti-government armed groups have also committed abuses, although not comparable in scale and organization with those carried out by the state."

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch

Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch

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