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(Reuters) - Russia and China vetoed on Thursday a resolution to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country's three-year civil war.

This was the fourth time Russia - a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government - and China have blocked U.N. Security Council action on Syria during the three-year civil war that has killed more than 150,000 people.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said the victims of the conflict "deserve to have history record those who stood with them and those who were willing to raise their hands to deny them a chance at justice."

"Our grandchildren will ask us years from now how we could have failed to bring justice to people living in hell on earth," Power told the council after the vote.

There were more than 60 co-sponsors of the French-drafted resolution, diplomats said. The resolution was put to a vote with the knowledge that it would be vetoed. The remaining 13 members of the council voted in favor of the resolution.

"If members of the council continue to be unable to agree on a measure that could provide some accountability for the ongoing crimes, the credibility of this body and of the entire organization will continue to suffer," U.N. Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the council on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The ICC prosecutor cannot investigate the situation in Syria without a referral from the 15-member Security Council because Damascus is not a member of the Rome Statute that established The Hague-based court a decade ago. The Security Council has previously referred Libya and Darfur, Sudan to the ICC.

 


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