Evidence exists to bring Syria war-crimes case: French diplomat (+video)
France's top human rights diplomat says 'the raw material is there' in the Syria conflict to refer case to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
(Page 2 of 2)
The UN has in the past referred Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to the ICC. But Syria has now come to represent a case of Russia’s Vladimir Putin playing cards in a larger game. A Security Council referral is likely to occur only as part of satisfying broader goals that Mr. Putin has in mind, analysts say.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Reaching a critical juncture in Syria
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“What makes Syria a hinge-moment is that Russia and China are proving that they have no strategic interest in transitions beyond dictatorship,” wrote Michael Ignatieff in a New York Review of Books blog yesterday. “Both Russia and China see Syria not through the prism of international peace and security or human rights, but through the logic of their own despotism. For Putin, Syria is Chechnya; for China it is Tibet.”
The Yugoslav tribunal was set up during the conflict in 1993, partly, critics said at the time, in order to assuage the conscience of world leaders that something was being done in the midst of Serb aggression. Like Syria, the Balkans conflict was seen as a symbolic moment of clashing forces and values after the cold war.
But the UN agreement took place at a time of Soviet transition, a time that Mr. Putin has said is a humiliation he will not repeat in tending to Russian interests.
Defectors could provide key information
The Syrian story continues to evolve as the Syrian ambassador to Iraq, Nawas Fares, has defected, days after another important defector, Gen. Manaf Tlass, formerly a member of the Assad family circle. Both men are seen as potential gold mines of inside information for a war crimes investigation.
French Syrian experts like Fabrice Balanche say that Mr. Fares is a more significant transitional player than Mr. Tlass, since he has a political base in the east of Syria, was a top official there during the rule of Hafez al-Assad, Bashir Assad’s father, and has respect as ambassador to Iraq, a key state in the region.
"The resignation of the Syrian ambassador in Iraq is very important, far more than the defection of Tlass,” says Mr. Balanche, of the University of Lyon. “This ambassador is a Sunni who comes from the region of Al Bukamal, in the Eastern part of Syria … and is part of an important tribe straddling Syria and Iraq. He could play a role in the political transition.”
Moreover, if the ICC is seen as weak and ineffectual, the blame for this is not to be thrown on the court, says Mark Ellis, director of the International Bar Association in London. The ICC, like the UN that established it, is merely an extension of the political will and sensibility of the world powers that make it up.
“The ICC doesn’t have an army or police force. It can only act with the support of the international community,” Mr. Ellis argues. “So when we hear a focus on the perceived weakness of the court, this is not the ICC’s fault. The Security Council gives the ICC its jurisdiction.”
“We are preparing for a [Syria] trial that will happen,” says Zimeray. “This is not a belief, it's a conviction, and what I heard at the Friends of Syria meeting in Paris convinced me the international community is dedicated to punish the perpetrators. This is an improvement, and would not have been the case 20 years before."
In the wake of the Lubanga verdict, the French newspaper of record, Le Monde, argued enthusiastically in a front page editorial that the ICC has begun to show results 10 years into its development, and, despite being alternately “too timid or too aggressive,” has become “an essential instrument” in world affairs.