Since the Security Council Won’t Act, Send in the ICC?

Since the Security Council Won’t Act, Send in the ICC?

Matters in Syria are going from bad to worse.  I am sure this won’t do any harm, but it is not going to help either.  It will simply give the illusion that the international community is dong something about Syria.

Syrian officials suspected of committing or ordering crimes against humanity should face prosecution in the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United Nations human rights office said on Friday.

“We believe, and we’ve said it and we’ll keep repeating it, that the case of Syria belongs in the International Criminal Court. This would give a very, very strong message to those running the show,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, told a news briefing.

I suppose there is some possibility that China and Russia would allow an ICC investigation (Syria is not a state-party to the ICC) even as they oppose a more powerful UNSC resolution.  But it hardly seems likely. And there is almost no chance, in my view, that such an investigation would make a meaningful difference to a brutal dictator, and regime, desperate to hold on to power.  Sadly, the most likely outcome is more hand-wringing at Turtle Bay and more massacres in Homs.

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Stuart Ford

I tend to agree that Russia is unlikely to permit a SC resolution that refers the situation in Syria to the ICC.  Having said that, I am not sure that a referral would be a complete waste of time.

The Darfur referral has had at least one tangible consequence – al Bashir and those others indicted have a hard time traveling internationally.  They can still travel within Africa because a large number of African states refuse to honor the ICC arrest warrant, but even that is likely to change over time.

Moreover, the Arab League does not seem to be supporting Assad in quite the same way that the AU is supporting al Bashir, so I would guess that an ICC referral and subsequent indictment (assuming such was forthcoming) would impose even more constraints on Assad than the al Bashir indictment has imposed.

Of course, ICC referral should not be a substitute for other forms of action, but rather a complement to it.  If the SC ever does get around to using Chapter VII against Syria (even if only for measures short of the use of force) it should certainly consider an ICC referral as one such measure.


“Meaningful difference”? How about he pays for all the thousands of people he killed? I am sure an indictment would come handy. Bashar is still relatively young, he still has enough time to get caught.