Geneva- Former war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte announced on Sunday she is quitting a United Nations commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria because it “does absolutely nothing”.
Del Ponte, 70, who prosecuted war crimes in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, told a panel discussion on the sidelines of the Locarno Film Festival that she had already prepared her letter of resignation.
“I am quitting this commission, which is not backed by any political will,” she said, adding that her role was just an “alibi”.
“I have no power as long as the Security Council does nothing,” she said. “We are powerless, there is no justice for Syria.”
Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney general, joined the three-member Syria inquiry in September 2012, chronicling incidents such as chemical weapons attacks, a genocide against Iraq’s Yazidi population, siege tactics, and the bombing of aid convoys.
The brief of the commission is to investigate human rights violations and war crimes in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011.
It has released about a dozen reports but investigators have never gained access to Syria itself, instead relying on interviews, photos, medical records and other documents.
“I have written my letter of resignation and will send it in the next few days,” del Ponte told the Swiss newspaper, Blick.
The UN Commission of Inquiry thanked in a statement del Ponte for her contributions to its work “and for her personal efforts and interventions to support the cause of justice”.
It wished her well “in all her future endeavors, particularly as a tireless advocate for the cause of accountability and bringing perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice”.
The commission added that the investigations would continue.
“It is our obligation to persist in its work on behalf of the countless number of Syrian victims of the worst human rights violations and international crimes known to humanity,” it said.
The commission was set up in August 2011 and has regularly reported on human rights violations, but its pleas to observe international law have largely fallen on deaf ears.
Although the United Nations is setting up a new body to prepare prosecutions, there is no sign of any court being established to try war crimes committed in the six-and-a-half-year-old war, nor of any intention by the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Del Ponte’s determination to be independent made her outspoken and occasionally controversial.
Earlier this year, when the commission reported on Syrian regime aircraft deliberately bombing and strafing a humanitarian convoy, del Ponte hinted at her frustration with the inability to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“What we have seen here in Syria, I never saw that in Rwanda, or in former Yugoslavia, in the Balkans. It is really a big tragedy,” she added. “Unfortunately we have no tribunal.”