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Fed up with Security Council, veteran prosecutor Del Ponte to quit Syria probe

Carla Del Ponte says she intends to resign from a UN commission established to probe atrocities in Syria's civil war. The Swiss national came to prominence investigating atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Citing a lack of backing by the Security Council, Carla Del Ponte (left in photo) told a Swiss newspaper that she intended to quit the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

Now 70, the former Swiss attorney general has served on the three-member commission since September 2012, chronicling incidents such as chemical weapons attacks, genocide against Iraq's Yazidi population, siege tactics and the bombing of aid convoys.

"I am frustrated," Del Ponte told the Sunday edition of the Swiss newspaper Blick. "I give up." 

The UN created the commission in August 2011, after the Syrian government cracked down on protests, but before the conflict devolved into a multifront war that has killed 330,000 people and displaced millions. The commission has released a dozen reports on atrocities, but investigators have never gained access to the country, relying on interviews, pictures, medical records and other documents for their findings.

'Absolutely nothing'

In May 2013, Del Ponte shocked the US and EU by asserting "strong suspicions" that rebels used sarin gas. Two years later, she said justice would catch up with President Bashar al-Assad. After the commission reported that his government deliberately bombed and strafed a humanitarian convoy this year, Del Ponte hinted at her frustration with the inability to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"I cannot remain on this commission that does absolutely nothing," Del Ponte told Blick.

Del Ponte said she had never seen such crimes committed elsewhere, specifically mentioning the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, where she also extensively investigated atrocities. Known for her frankness, Del Ponte has repeatedly voiced frustration at the lack of accountability for the horrendous crimes committed in Syria and has slammed the UN Security Council. She and the commission have also repeatedly urged the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

"At first there was good and bad: the opposition on the side of good and the government in the bad role," Del Ponte told Blick. However, today "everyone in Syria is on the bad side," she said. "The Assad government had perpetrated horrible crimes against humanity and used chemical weapons. And the opposition is now made up of extremists and terrorists."

Del Ponte's departure would leave the Brazilian rights specialist Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (right in photo) and the US diplomat Karen Koning AbuZayd on the commission.

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mkg/tj (Reuters, AFP)

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