Future warning to Syrian officials
Syrian officials involved in the brutal suppression of anti-regime protests will eventually be held accountable for their actions, Western diplomats have warned.
Efforts are under way in Western capitals to assemble evidence of human rights abuses by members of president Bashar al Assad's regime with a view to use in future proceedings.
Referral to the International Criminal Court would require the authorisation of the United Nations Security Council - currently seen as unlikely given the opposition of Russia and China.
However Western officials insist that eventually those Syrians responsible for atrocities against the civilian population could still be brought to book. Steps are already under way within the European Union to impose travel bans and asset freezes on named Syrian officials - a move which could translate into further action at a later date.
"It is important that Syrian senior regime officials understand that even if they are out of reach today there may come a point down the line when they will be held accountable," said one Western diplomat. "A lot of these mid-ranking officials, they don't have significant assets and within the EU jurisdiction they are probably not going to travel much. But mainly it shows that a list of names that at the moment is a list of people who are not allowed to travel to the EU can very easily become another kind of list of names in another form further down the line."
Officials admit they see little hope of breaking the current cycle of violence, with the regime now apparently firmly locked in to a "security solution".
"With the amount of blood that has been spilt the regime is now committed to this process, it can't back up. There is too much blood spilt. It is a cul-de-sac," said one diplomat. "They will either succeed by force of arms or they will lose."
More than 5,400 people have been killed since the uprising began in March last year.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain has no plans to arm Syrian rebels trying to overthrow the president. David Cameron has pledged to maintain the pressure on Mr Assad and his government, saying he was determined to see the "toughest possible response" to the brutality.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has condemned the "appalling brutality" of the onslaught.