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War crimes prosecutor Del Ponte joins Syria probe

Associated Press Modified: September 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm •  Published: September 28, 2012

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.'s top human rights body on Friday named renowned former U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte to its independent panel probing alleged war crimes in Syria's 18-month conflict.

Her appointment came as a sign of stepped-up efforts to gather evidence against members of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

The U.N. Human Rights Council also voted to extend by six months the mission of its probe.

The panel, whose mandate was due to expire within days, has blamed Syria's government forces for the majority of serious abuses since the uprising began in March 2011.

Activists say some 30,000 people have died in Syria since the uprising began. In addition, hundreds of thousands have fled the violence, many going across the border to Turkey.

The collected evidence could one day be used in a war crimes tribunal hearing — although none is so far planned at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Last week, the panel led by Brazilian professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro submitted a confidential second list of suspected war crimes perpetrators to the U.N. human rights office.

Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney general, has previously served as prosecutor of the international war crimes tribunals probing atrocities in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. Along with Del Ponte, the Council also named Vitit Muntarbhorn, a Thai professor who has investigated human rights in North Korea.

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