Peace Versus Justice in Syria’s Civil War
2 August 2012
Simon Adams is Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.
(…) It is shameful that after seventeen months of relentless bloodshed and an estimated 20,000 dead, the UN Security Council's response has amounted to nothing more than a few tersely worded press statements and a crippled observer mission. On three separate occasions Russia and China have vetoed attempts by the Council to hold accountable those responsible for mass atrocities in Syria. Each time President al-Assad has taken this as a renewal of his licence to commit crimes against humanity. (…)
Faced with political deadlock at the UN Security Council, a number of Arab states have chosen instead to fund the armed opposition groups battling the Syrian security forces. (…)
Meanwhile Iran allegedly continues to provide the Syrian regime with crucial support and the Russians have sent the bullets, guns, tanks and attack helicopters that enable the killing. (…)
In the absence of a united UN Security Council willing to act to end the killing, members of Assad's inner circle still believe they can militarily crush all those who have risen against them. For the Alawite elite who control the army, the stakes could not be higher. Victory means they continue to rule over a broken country. Defeat means the end of the Alawite dictatorship.
(…) First, the international community needs to continue to impress upon the Syrian opposition that outside support (political or otherwise) is dependent upon actively preventing reprisals against Alawites as Alawites. The ongoing fracturing of Syria along sectarian lines, with targeting of suspect communities on both sides, will only deepen Syria's misery and lead to further atrocities.
Secondly, it remains essential to hold accountable those responsible for crimes against humanity. (…)
If we have learned anything from the various "peace processes" of the last twenty years it is that without justice there can be no lasting peace. If the international community is unwilling to hold Assad, his ministers and his senior security officers accountable, then there is no incentive for those who eventually replace him (whether they be rebels, defectors or Assad loyalists) to act any differently.
Although the UN is locked out of finding a solution to this crisis for the moment, it should still deploy the necessary resources to monitor, investigate and accumulate evidence. Having failed to prevent a civil war in Syria, having abdicated its responsibility to protect the Syrian people from crimes against humanity, the very least the UN Security Council can do now is ensure that one way or another Assad and his generals eventually find their way to The Hague.
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