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Carla Del Ponte Calls for Greater Involvement of International Community in Syria Conflict

Appeal by Syria Envoy to United Nations as Part of Award Ceremony for Freedom Award of Freie Universität Berlin

№ 363/2014 from Oct 20, 2014

The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Carla Del Ponte, has called on the international community to become more involved in the Syria conflict. The Swiss lawyer who, on behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has been investigating crimes in the Syrian civil war since 2011, recalled on Monday in Berlin on the occasion of the conferral of the Freedom Award of Freie Universität, the many victims who have already been called for in this war and whose number increases daily. Del Ponto dedicated her award to the people of the Syrian refugee camps and hospitals and to all the victims of these crimes against humanity.

Carla Del Ponte appealed to the UN Security Council to do more because peace is the condition for freedom. The renowned political scientist Gesine Schwan emphasized the importance of justice for freedom. Schwann, the former president of the European University Viadrina, mentioned in her speech that it was surprising at first glance that the Freedom Award this year was going to a person who had put people behind bars. However, Del Ponte belongs to an elite group of lawyers who laid the foundation for an international criminal law.

The president of Freie Universität Berlin, Professor Peter-André Alt, praised Del Ponte as one of the "most dedicated lawyers of our time" and recalled her resolute and uncompromising efforts against crime as a prosecutor in the 1980s.

Beginning in 1994, as a federal prosecutor for the Swiss Confederation, Del Ponte continued her fight against money laundering, arms trafficking, corruption, and organized crime. In 1999, upon recommendation by the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, the UN Security Council appointed her Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslawia (1999-2007) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (1999-2003) in The Hague.

During her eight years in office, of the 161 individuals that the war crimes tribunal had indicted since being founded in 1993, 91 had been arrested or voluntarily surrounded to the authorities. Of this number, 63 individuals – including military commanders, soldiers, and local politicians – were sentenced by the court to imprisonment. The extradition of the deposed dictator Slobodan Milošević to the tribunal in 2001 caused a great international sensation. Milošević, however, died in detention after four years of trial, without having been sentenced for his crimes.

Del Ponte persistently pointed out that justice for the victims is only possible by means of extensive international and national efforts. When she left The Hague in 2007, she strongly urged the EU to make the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Serbia dependent on the arrest and extradition of war criminals Mladić and Karadžić.

Since September 2012 Carla Del Ponte has been continuing her tireless work as a member of the independent UN Syria Commission and has been investigating human rights violations and war crimes in the Syrian civil war.

With its Freedom Award, Freie Universität recognizes individuals who have rendered outstanding services to the cause of political, social, or academic freedom. Two university traditions come together in this award: the vision of freedom that goes back to the founding history of Freie Universität, as well as the international orientation of the university. Previous winners include the pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, the former UN High Commissioner and former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, the South African Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, the former Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, and the former President of the Republic of Korea and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kim Dae-jung.

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