China and Russia on Thursday vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court for war crimes committed by both sides in its civil war.
Western powers had pressed for the resolution in the face of mounting atrocities in Syria, including chemical attacks, systematic torture, barrel bombings and blocked aid access.
It was the fourth time both countries have blocked Western resolutions relating to the three-year conflict in Syria.
The 13 other members of the Security Council voted in favor.
“The draft resolution has not been adopted owing to the negative votes of permanent members of the Council,” said South Korea ambassador Oh Joon, rotating president of the chamber.
US ambassador Samantha Power told the Council that as a result of the vetoes, “the Syrian people will not see justice today.” She then read from the testimony of those seeking justice in Syria.
The veto protects not only the Syrian regime but terrorist groups as well, Power said.
Moscow is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s closest ally, and has provided him with diplomatic cover throughout the crisis.
Beijing generally aligns with the Russian position.
The text, drawn up by France, was co-sponsored by 60 countries, including members of the European Union, Japan, South Korea and several African states.
Syria is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court so only the Security Council can decide whether to refer war crimes or crimes against humanity on its territory to the court.
It did the same for Darfur in 2005 and Libya in 2011.