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Sweden rules out taking Syria's Assad to the ICC

Sweden rules out taking Syria's Assad to the ICC

Published: 16 Jan 2013 09:13 GMT+01:00
Updated: 16 Jan 2013 09:13 GMT+01:00

Sweden was the lone EU member state to opt out of a petition the UN Security Council to take Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the International Criminal Court (ICC), disappointing human rights observers who claim the move is "un-Swedish".

"It's a significant disappointment to all of us, because Sweden is usually a voice for international justice tha we can count on," Lotte Leicht, spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch in the EU, told the TT news agency on Tuesday.

"It's a sad day for Swedish foreign policy."

The letter, which was drafted by Switzerland, was signed by 57 countries and sent to New York on Monday.

Erik Zsiga, press secretary to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, referred to a decision on December 10th, 2012 by Bildt and his EU counter-parts agreeing that war criminals would be prosecuted.

When contacted about the Swiss initiative, however, Bildt decided that pursuing justice within the Syrian system was preferable to involving the ICC in The Hague, said Zsiga.

Yet Bildt's Moderate Party faces dissenting voices within the four-party government coalition that it leads.

Spokespeople from the Christian Democrats, the Centre Party and the Liberals (Folkpartiet) all said they were in favour of signing the letter to the UN, even though experts say China and Russia are likely to veto any action against the Syrian government on security-council level.

"Of course Sweden should be exerting pressure. We usually fly the flag for human rights," Christian Democrat foreign affairs spokeswoman Désirée Pethrus told TT.

Her counterpart in the opposition Green Party, Bodil Ceballos, said she had brought the issue up with Bildt's top aide, Frank Belfrage, who said the timing of such an initiative was "off".

Bildt remained convinced that the letter would be counter-productive.

"It would put Assad in a headlock and make him less flexible, because we'd be telling him 'your only option is to fight to the death'," Bildt told TT.

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Your comments about this article

14:10 January 16, 2013 by Rishonim
Certainly had the letter called to take an Israeli politician to court Sweden would have been the first to sign on. Assad's regime mutilate and butcher people every our of the day and the Swedish media keep a silence tone on it. Yet the moment Israel launch an offensive to prevent rockets from raining into its cities, the buffoon media make it first page news. Swedish politicians and the media are big can of surströmming
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