Why don’t we take the I.C.C. Syria-usly?

Why can’t the ICC handle the Syrian conflict?


Everyone with blood in veins and a head firmly attached to their shoulders is at least acutely aware of the crisis occurring in Syria. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been accused of using chemical weapons along with other travesties against the people of his very own nation.


The United States, Great Britain and other nations are up in arms (pun unintended) about the crisis and are thoroughly conflicted on the appropriate fashion to handle the situation.  U.S. President Barack Obama is a strong proponent of military action but others are opposed to the prospect of another war.


If military action is off the table, that leaves limited avenues for the retribution of al-Assad. Only if there was an international criminal court in which Assad could be tried…wait.


The International Criminal Court (ICC) enacted some 10 years ago in its short time has made a significant impact prosecuting foreign leaders accused of committing atrocities of some form or another. Since Syria has not ratified 1998’s Rome Statute the ICC can only exercise jurisdiction if the Syrian government accepts jurisdiction, ratifies the treaty, or if the United Nations Security Council refers the situation to the court. The “ICC referral,” could give the court jurisdiction beginning on the commencement of the Rome Statute on July 1, 2002.


So what’s the flaw? We solved it, now lets get on that domestic unemployment issue.


There’s one thing that the ICC needs that some experts don’t think this conflict has much of—time. Before the ICC can prosecute a party it must perform a thorough investigation that may take up to six to eight additional months. In that time the lives of Syrians remain uncertain. Furthermore, an ICC referral would be a blow to Assad, which would make him even less keen on U.N. peace talks.


Do you think that the ICC would be a better venue for Assad’s retribution?


British Broadcasting Company

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

The Guardian






One comment

  1. While it might seem like the ICC is the best avenue for addressing this issue, the ICC, as you mentioned, cannot and most likely will not address it. At the root of this issue is international cooperation. Cooperation is a very delicate business in the international world. Aside from the unavailability of the preferred avenues of ratification or acceptance of jurisdiction, it seems highly unlikely that the Security Council will provide a referral. Russia, Syria’s biggest ally, sits on the Security Council. What’s more, Assad has backing from the United States via a very significant deal. The US needs Syria to carry out the chemical weapons agreement.

    Lastly, the ICC would have a hard time proceeding with investigations and, ultimately, a trial because of the lack of cooperation from Syria. As you point out, time is of the essence here and while we don’t have much of it, it certainly seems like that is what this needs.

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