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.
After 16 months of carnage in Syria, enough evidence and reports
of systematic brutality and crimes against humanity exist to send
the case to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, according
to diplomats. The reports, including names of Syrian officials and
details on massacres, amount to a mass tipping point, they say, and
allow a "referral" by the UN Security Council to the ICC that would
result in indictments.
Yet an ICC referral requires the agreement of Russia and China,
which seems unlikely as the Syria conflict has become a global
standoff between Moscow and Western and Arab states led by the US.
This week, France's top human rights diplomat told the Monitor
there is "definitely" enough evidence of Syrian war crimes and
torture to refer the case: "The raw material is there," says
Ambassador Francois Zimeray.
President Hollande and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
insist the prosecution of war crimes is not a matter of if, but
when. Last week, as host of a Paris summit of Friends of the Syrian
People, French president Francois Hollande made it his first order
of business to pledge "no impunity for crimes" by Syrian leaders.
The US State Department has collected war crimes evidence since
Mr. Zimeray described Syria as an "endless Guernica" after
visiting its border this year, and told the Monitor that after four
years and 97 trips to world trouble spots, he had never encountered
"such cruelty, cruelty inside of violence ... that is manifest in
the criminal attitude of [Assad's] regime."
Yet, even as various tribunals at The Hague this week marked
progress - the first verdict coming from the ICC in the Lubanga
child soldiers trial, and the first witness testimony in the trial
of Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic - the wheels of justice on Syria
are tangled in conflicting interests by emerging world power blocs.
"Russia and China are the hurdles, definitely," says Reed Brody
of Human Rights Watch, which this month published a report
describing an "archipelago" of some 27 torture centers around Syria,
including locations and the names of at least half of the commanding
officers in charge of them.
While a war crimes investigation might not have an immediate
impact on the conflict, the fact that enough evidence exists amid
ongoing atrocities is a point diplomats feel can play a role in the
court of world opinion, if not in Moscow or Beijing.
The concept of international justice in ad hoc tribunals on
Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and now embodied in the ICC, has
been criticized as weak, sometimes counterproductive, and slow. ICC
indictments have tended to center on African warlords, giving it a
"North-South" bias. The US, Israel, India, and many Arab nations are
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. …