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international criminal court
crimes against humanity
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Referral Of Syrian Case To The International Criminal Court
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Referral Of Syrian Case to the International Criminal Court

Continuing violence in Syria starts to attract even more attention from international community. It seems that legal steps are on the way. Investigation conducted by the UN led to the report drafted in Geneva that provides allegations of credible and consistent evidence of top Syrian officials ordering to kill innocent civilians throughout violent outbreak.

That report is due to be presented to the Human Rights Commission these upcoming days. It seems that UN starts to take serious steps towards directing the course of events to the legal niche. It is evident from the contents of the report that has accusations of crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations in it. Somehow it reminds the reader of the Libyan case. Those kind of legal statements precluded indictments for the Gaddafi family and their supporters. It may be very probable that the UN prepares the grounds for the referral of the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court that deals with the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, aggression and war crimes.

It is worth noting that International Criminal Court was created in 1998 by the Rome Statute that entered into force in 2002. 120 states are already members of the Court’s Statute, however that list excludes such countries as U.S. and Russia, who have signed the Statute, but have never ratified it.

The question is whether such action is necessary right now in the situation with Syria? As an international lawyer I support any action that uses the mandate of International Criminal Court for the right purposes. However given the present situation that blocks the action by the UN Security Council, it might be counter-productive to the diplomatic efforts to come to consensus on the matter through the main body that deals with maintenance of international peace and security. Without careful diplomatic activities from the western countries it might be impossible to break the Syrian legal stalemate that is blocking international community from action.

In case of Libya referral of the case to the International Criminal Court prematurely only led to the conflict of jurisdictions between authorities in Libya and the Court itself. Up until now the demands of the International Criminal Court to extradite Seif Gaddafi we left unanswered by the Libyans who are positive that they can bring the justice to the son of former dictator by themselves. That provokes a lot of skepticism from the critics who remind of what happened to the Muammar Gaddafi.

Thus the same premature action in present Syrian crisis may lead to the already experienced consequences. Furthermore, each time something like that happens, the damage gets straight to the image of the International Criminal Court as justice-bringer to the most serious crimes in the world. So it might be more useful to adopt a careful approach and watch the diplomatic events unravel to look for the right time for the referral.

It seems that the shift from the “legitimacy” argument towards the “crimes against humanity” is provoked by the inability to come to consensus on the status of the Assad’s government and correspondingly – the status of opposition.


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