News 17 february — 11:10

New U.N. team aims to bring Syria war crimes to court

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A new body is being set up at the United Nations in Geneva to prepare prosecutions of war crimes committed in Syria, U.N. officials and diplomats said on Thursday, Reuters reports.

The General Assembly voted to establish the mechanism in December and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to name a judge or prosecutor as its head this month.

"We expect to start very, very shortly with just a handful of people," a U.N. human rights official told Reuters.

The team will "analyze information, organize and prepare files on the worst abuses that amount to international crimes - primarily war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide - and identify those responsible", she said.

While it would not be able to prosecute itself, the idea is to prepare files for future prosecution that states or the International Criminal Court in The Hague could use.

The focus on prosecutions means evidence collected since 2011 by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry may be sharpened into legal action.

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