Time to refer Syria crisis to ICC
from GPS website, January 10, 2013
By Michael Spindelegger, Karl Erjavec, Eamon Gilmore and Villy Søvndal, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Spindelegger, Karl Erjavec, Eamon Gilmore and Villy Søvndal are the foreign ministers of Austria, Slovenia, Ireland and Denmark, respectively. The views expressed are their own.
Over the months, we have been following the events in Syria with growing concern. We support the aspirations of the Syrian people to freely choose a government that represents all the enriching diversity of this multi-confessional nation, one that respects the rule of law, human rights and democracy. It is deplorable that the current regime in Damascus has not heeded the repeated calls for a peaceful transition of power. As do our colleagues from the Arab League, we strongly condemn the violence by the al-Assad regime against the Syrian people. We call on all sides to end the violence and to genuinely support the U.N.-led efforts to achieve a political solution.
But recent developments have given reason for even more serious concern. U.N. peacekeepers were seriously injured when a convoy of the UNDOF peacekeeping operation on the Golan Heights was attacked. Reports about possible preparations for the use of chemical weapons circulate. The al-Assad regime is preparing Damascus for confrontation with the rebels and we know that these situations of last stand urban fighting often result in the most terrible atrocities being committed in armed conflict, with particular dangers for civilians. Concerned that the crisis in Syria may soon reach a new level of violence, we publicly appeal to all parties to the conflict to abide by international law, especially international humanitarian law and human rights law, and to recall that all those that commit or order war crimes and crimes against humanity will be held accountable. This principle cannot and will not be negotiated.
As we know from the work of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, horrendous crimes have already been committed during the conflict in Syria, but there have been no consequences for the perpetrators. It is precisely for situations like this that the international community established the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) ten years ago. This independent judicial body can provide justice when a state is unable or unwilling to prosecute the most terrible crimes. Since Syria is not a party to the ICC Statute, jurisdiction of the Court requires a decision of the U.N. Security Council. In view of the grave concerns mentioned above, and the lack of prosecution in Syria, we call on the U.N. Security Council to urgently refer the situation in Syria to the ICC. In this respect, we welcome the Conclusions of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council on December 10, 2012 and the Swiss initiative at the United Nations to achieve this goal.
Some of us less informed and less enmeshed in the diplomatic subtleties of foreign policy wanted such a move months ago, prior to the slaughter of thousands of innocents. However, better late than never, and we heartily endorse this petition from the respected Foreign Ministers.