Syria needs peace & war criminals must be prosecuted

By Solin Hacador: Solin Hacador has done an LLM in international law, & works in teaching and business consultancy fields. She is from the capital city of Kurdistan, Amed. She resides in Spain and writes for Gelawej and Kovara Jinan.

International moral hypocrisy became obvious in the Syrian Civil War. Powerful countries advocate one kind of morality for human rights at home. This raises a question mark in my mind! If their policies of solidarity are morally good for them, why should they not be morally good for the international victims of conflict as well? Why the double standard? The war victims cannot be cheated anymore.

The government of Syria has admitted possessing chemical weapons; the United Nations has confirmed that their use killed more than 1,400 people in the outskirts of Damascus last month; and the UN Security Council is about to approve a plan for ridding the country of such weapons. This makes us think about holding the perpetrators accountable for violating international criminal law.

On the matter of whether this creates an international obligation, I strongly believe that we need to consider an international criminal court with jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the atrocities committed in Syria until now.

Consider this historical example: after the First World War, when the Treaty of Sevres and the Treaty of Versailles provided for the prosecution of Turkish and German war criminals (including Kaiser Wilhelm II) before international tribunals. However, no international tribunals were ever established for this purpose. Instead, Kaiser Wilhelm was given sanctuary in the Netherlands and the Allied Powers consented to the trial of accused Germans before the German Supreme Court sitting at Leipzig. Of the 896 Germans accused of war crimes by the Allied Powers, only twelve were tried and, of those, only six were convicted (and given token sentences). The Turks fared even better by receiving an amnesty for their crimes in the Treaty of Lausanne, which replaced the Treaty of Sevres.

Despite this unsatisfactory experience, the Allies were determined to conduct such trials at the end of the Second World War. In 1943, the Allies set up the United Nations War Crimes Commission to collect evidence with a view to conducting trials at the end of the war. In 1945, the victorious Allied Governments of the United States, France, the United Kingdom and the  Union concluded the London Agreement, providing for the establishment of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (Nuremberg Tribunal) to try the most notorious of the Germans accused of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Syria has just signed 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. It was also a party to the 1925 Chemical Weapon Treaty. Both treaties prohibit use of chemical weapons. But they do not contain ‘prosecute’ or ‘extradite’ clauses and they also do not authorize other countries to use military force to enforce the prohibition.

Syria is also a party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols, which make it a war crime to employ weapons that cause superfluous injury, unnecessary suffering or have indiscriminate effects.

In the eye of the law, Assad’s regime has committed crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. By the use of chemical weapon the Syrian Regime is entered an even worse criminal arena. These are serious crimes and they need discussion in the form of a Security Council Resolution and eventually a Peace Agreement leading the way to a Syrian Extraordinary Tribunal to Prosecute Atrocity Crimes.

It is a useful framework, not only for the Syrians, but also for regional and international organizations to assist in the creation of an appropriate justice mechanism. I strongly believe that this issue should not be delayed any longer and Syrian civilians must be granted with their rights in a dignified and peaceful way. The world needs peace, Syria needs peace. – Kurdistan Tribune 1.10.2013