1 of 2 | A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (R) shaking hands with his supporters upon his arrival to vote for the referendum on a new constitution, at a polling station, in Damascus, Syria, February, 26 2012. Syrians began voting February 26 on a new constitution that the government says will introduce political pluralism. More than 14,000 polling stations opened nationwide for about 15 million eligible voters. The opposition announced a boycott of the referendum. UPI. | License Photo
GENEVA, Switzerland, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Referring the Syrian government of Bashar Assad to the International Criminal Court would be a step in the right direction, a leading U.N. rights official said.
The U.N. Human Rights Council had an urgent debate Tuesday in Geneva to discuss ongoing violence in Syria. The United Nations estimates at least 7,000 people have died in Syria since in uprising against the government began in March 2010.
Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, told the council that, while Damascus was recognized for opening some areas to humanitarian groups, those actions are insignificant when compared to the "continuing onslaught of violence" in Syria.
"In light of this and in the face of the unspeakable violations that take place every moment, I remain convinced that referring the situation of Syria to the International Criminal Court will be a step in the right direction," she told the council.
Fayssal al-Hamwi, the Syrian representative to the U.N. rights council, maintained Damascus was dealing with domestic terrorism. Slapping economic sanctions on the country, he said, was hurting the Syrian people and doing nothing to quell the violence.
"The delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic announces non-acknowledgement of the legitimacy of this session,'' he said in a statement before walking out of the meeting.
Syria during the weekend had a national referendum for a new constitution that calls for a presidential term limit and makes no mention of the ruling Baath Party.