Investigators and lawyers have built war crimes cases against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and key institutions of his regime with documents smuggled out of the country, a report said Wednesday. But how can the international community expect to prosecute Assad when it cannot even stop him from further mass crimes?
Building war crimes case against Assad is a cruel joke when no country is willing to forcefully stop his barrel bombs and the gassing of civilians.
The Guardian newspaper said the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) had already built three cases against the regime for crimes against humanity and is continuing to assemble evidence against others in the regime as well as in the opposition.
The British daily said the cases were largely based on government documents smuggled out of Syria by a team of 60 investigators who had risked their lives to collect the evidence that now runs to around half a million pages. Still, building war crimes case against Assad is a cruel joke under the circumstances.
The group is also building up possible war crimes cases against rebel groups fighting Assad, including the jihadist Islamic State group, and has hired staff to review hours of video evidence.
So far, the CIJA has compiled three cases against the regime based mostly on its bloody suppression of anti-government protests in 2011 that triggered the descent into civil war.
The first case centres on Assad and his war cabinet — the Central Crisis Management Cell (CCMC).
A second focuses on the National Security Bureau, which includes the intelligence and security chiefs.
The third involves the security committee responsible for Deir Ezzor and Raqa provinces, and is based on smuggled documents detailing “how precise orders to crush the popular uprising flowed from Damascus to the governorates.”
The Guardian reported that the regime bureaucracy’s passion for paperwork had made it easy both to document crimes and to determine who was giving the orders.
“The regime’s mania for documenting orders as they travel down the chain of command — and after-actions reports that flow back upwards — has meant that the paper trail led unexpectedly to the very centre of power in Damascus,” the paper wrote.
The documents provided insight into how the regime has organised itself during the war, revealing that the CCMC meets daily and minutes from the meeting are taken directly to Assad for review and notes that are then passed down the chain of command.
The material also showed that the country’s ruling Baath party structure has become a key “enforcer” across the country and that similar torture methods were being used in different provinces, “suggesting a centrally guided policy.”
Despite compiling detailed evidence and receiving funding from several Western governments, CIJA staff acknowledged to the Guardian that for now there is no court to prosecute the cases they have compiled. This means building war crimes case against Assad is premature at best if he cannot be stopped first from killing the innocent civilians.
Assad ally Russia has consistently blocked a UN referral of the conflict to the International Criminal Court, and any post-war legal reckoning could be years away.
AFP contributed to this report
Building War Crimes Case Against Assad is a Cruel Joke