December 3, 2011 in Nation/World

In brief: Syria may face criminal court


GENEVA – The United Nations’ top human rights official on Friday urged the U.N. Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands after an independent panel found evidence suggesting that the country’s security forces had committed crimes against humanity in a bid to suppress an 8-month-old uprising.

“The Syrian authorities’ continual ruthless repression, if not stopped now, can drive the country into a full-fledged civil war,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told a special session of the Human Rights Council. “The international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people.”

The international panel commissioned by the council released a report Monday documenting what it described as systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights, including torturing and killing children, shooting unarmed demonstrators and raping detainees.

Pillay said more than 4,000 people, including 307 children, have been reported killed since March, when major protests against President Bashar Assad’s regime began. Tens of thousands more have been arrested and at least 12,400 have sought refuge in neighboring countries, she told the session.

Syrian authorities dispute the U.N. figures and blame the bloodshed on armed gangs backed from abroad.

Mexican party chief resigns

Mexico City – Humberto Moreira, president of Mexico’s former ruling party, quit his post Friday amid a swelling financial scandal that threatened to throw off the party’s bid to retake power in next year’s elections.

Moreira has been hammered for months by charges that in his prior job as governor of the northern state of Coahuila he left it saddled with $3 billion in debt, at least partly due to loans allegedly sought using falsified documents.

Moreira, who was named head of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, early this year, has denied wrongdoing, saying the heavy borrowing took place after he left the governor’s seat in January to run for the national party post.

Moreira announced his resignation before a televised gathering of the PRI’s political council, saying he would not allow a “war in the media” to hurt his party.

The debt controversy was becoming a drag on the PRI even as early polls show it is poised to win 12 years after being unseated. The scandal threatened to remind voters of the sort of graft that characterized the PRI’s 70-year reign just when it is seeking to promote a fresh, cleaned-up image.

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