Holding Out Hope for a Syria Accounting
"This is not some abstract human rights issue. This lies at the core of this conflict and of any possible solution or reconciliation. Hundreds of thousands of victims and their families need justice, remedy and assurance that the future will be free from such violations."
Laila Alodaat, lawyer, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
"Countries don't need this evidence -- they already know what's happening."
"There is no justice. And because there is no justice, there is no hope."
Abu Ali al-Hamwi, Syrian detained and tortured by the Syrian regime
"The problem as I see it is not so much what mechanism one can use to bring accountability, but how you actually get your hands on the people you want to prosecute."
Kevin Jon Heller, law professor, SOAS, University of London
|Syrian Accountability Project|
Yet tribal and religious conflicts between national groups competing for influence and power are not that unusual; what sets this one apart is the level of barbaric viciousness displayed by a government against its people. This is a situation that the United Nations recognizes as threatening a segment of humanity at any given time, and which it took steps to guard against by committing itself to intervention through an obligatory protocol called 'Responsibility to Protect' (R2P). A theoretical invention which was incapable of venturing beyond theory.
Mostly because of the need for the UN Security Council comprised of permanent members, Britain, France, United States, China and Russia to full agreement in the imposition of sanctions and action to be taken to interrupt the slaughter. Russia, sometimes alongside China, casts the dissenting vote. Although figures range between 400,000 to 600,000 deaths so far in the Syrian Civil war displacing half of its 23-million population the carnage continues unabated with the regime using treaty-forbidden methods of mass murder.
In the six years the war has raged, no path to peace has yet presented itself. Syrian human rights groups claim over 200,000 people are missing, while tens of thousands remain in government custody where prisons are geared to torture and kill opponents of the regime. Others who are eventually released speak of torture, fear, hunger, deprivation, health declines, filth, disease and overcrowded conditions where humanity is totally absent.
Instant communication through the use of smartphones and the Internet have provided more than sufficient evidence from direct, on-site accounts by survivors of the perpetrators of state barbarism. Yet only one war crimes case against Syrian officials filed in Spain exists and no prospective cases have been sent on to the International Criminal Court, since Syria was never a signatory. And while the United Nations Security Council has the capacity to refer a case to the court, Russia's veto power ensures it will not.
|Russia clashes with other world powers over chemical gas deaths in Syria : BBC|
The Syrian government and Bashar al-Assad are adamant that the conflict has resulted from an international conspiracy to destroy his country; all opposition represents a coalition with foreign-backed terrorism, and nor had his regime committed atrocities. In March of 2011 a dozen boys wrote on the wall of their village school "It's your turn, Doctor"; that Assad would represent the next Arab leader to fall in the Arab Spring. The boys were speedily arrested, imprisoned, tortured and signed 'confessions'.
Arrests, torture, killings began in earnest thereafter, as did aerial bombardments and chemical attacks.
A United Nations Commission of Enquiry, along with human rights groups, described the regime's assault against its civilian populations as representing an industrial scale massacre. In one prison facility alone, thousands of prisoners have been executed, according to Amnesty International studying Saydnaya prison close to Damascus. People disappear and are never again seen. People have no hope left.
Still, activists, lawyers and others within Syria document atrocities taking place there, in the hope that one day justice will be seen. Among them are experienced war-crimes prosecutors building cases against the president and his government officials. The non-profit group Commission for International Justice and Accountability has been acquiring captured government documents, with over 750,000 government documents holding hundreds of thousands of names of regime enablers.
|The look of this father carrying his two children after the chemical attack in Syria encompasses all of the injustice of this world ... Kareem Shaheen/Twitter|