Syria and the International Criminal Court

Mark Kersten writes: Despite two years of an incessant civil war that has claimed at least 80,000 people, the United Nations Security Council has been mired in deadlock on how to respond to the violence in Syria. Yet the images and videos of civilians attacked with chemical weapons in the outskirts of Damascus has rocked the Syrian status quo. As Jon Western suggests, the chemical weapons attack may constitute “Syria’s Srebrenica,” galvanizing the international community into taking action in a war they can no longer afford to ignore.

The massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995 became a crucial moment not only in the Bosnian war but for international justice. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia declared that the massacre at Srebrenica constituted genocide; generals and political officials have been tried and convicted for their role in the carnage.

In the case of Syria, however, there have been no calls from the Security Council for chemical weapons attacks to be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that the use of chemical weapons in Syria constituted an “outrageous crime” that could not be met with impunity, there were no calls for the Council to refer Syria to the ICC. This begs the question: if the use of chemical weapons against thousands of civilians is a crime, why the silence on Syria and the ICC? [Continue reading…]

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