FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CRI calls on ICC Chief Prosecutor to investigate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for crimes against humanity, NOW!
Jun 4, 2012 at 6:56 pm
June 4, 2012 - NEW YORK - The Syrian government's systematic murder and torture of civilians over the past 16 months constitute crimes against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. They are "particularly odious offenses" and are an egregious attack on the sanctity of human life and dignity. For his role in orchestrating these actions, President Assad should immediately be brought before the International Criminal Court for his grave violations of international law.
The UN estimated this past March that more than 9,000 civilians had been killed since the Syrian uprising began in January 2011. At the same time, UNICEF said in a statement that 500 of these victims were children, highlighting the regime's indiscriminate brutality.
While CRI applauds UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay's appeal to the Security Council to refer Syria to the ICC Chief Prosecutor, such action is arguably unnecessary and projects futility. According to Article 15 of the Rome Statute, the Chief Prosecutor may initiate an investigation independently. The Children's Rights Institute urges the ICC Chief Prosecutor to do so and act swiftly on behalf of Syria's innocent victims so as to bring Assad to justice and prevent future barbarities.
Even though Syria has signed the Rome statute it has not officially ratified it and therefore Syria can not officially be deemed a State Party to the Rome Statute. However, the law of treaties obliges State signatories to refrain from "acts which would defeat the object and purpose" of the treaty. Moreover, ratification is the process required when an agent lacks authority to legally bind the principal. Given that Syria is a dictatorship, one could argue that ratification is an unnecessary and meaningless step. Therefore, at the very least, the ICC Prosecutor should launch an investigation into whether the court may exert jurisdiction over Syria should the Security Council fail to refer the case, which is likely given the interests of Russia and China in propping up the Assad regime.
Since its inception, the United Nations has held primary responsibility for prosecution of crimes against humanity and jurisdiction of such cases falls within the scope of the ICC per its Rome Statute. Syria became a signatory to the Rome Statute in 2000 and so agreed to refrain from committing any of the crimes enumerated. The ICC Chief Prosecutor thus has a duty to ensure Assad no longer acts with impunity. The ICC's failure to unilaterally uphold its responsibility risks the institution itself declining in relevance.
The massacre in Houla on May 25 and those that have occurred over the past week have simply reaffirmed the fact that the Syrian government will continue to act in violation of human rights law. Despite agreeing to a peace proposal negotiated by UN special envoy Kofi Annan in April, Assad has continued the attacks with impunity.
The plight of Syria's youth has made the atrocities especially horrific; children have been subject to killings, torture, and beatings by Assad's forces and made up nearly half of the casualties at Houla.
Assad's targeted strikes on civilian populations, torture of POWs, and summary executions of detainees are more than sufficient evidence for the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to initiate a case per Article 15 of the Rome Statute.
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