Is a special tribunal Syria’s best chance for justice?

A man walks amid a destroyed building in Aleppo, Syria. © DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images

 

Carla Del Ponte, a member of the Syria commission and a former international prosecutor, said that a special ‘ad hoc’ tribunal could have advantages such as the ability to try a wider range of lower-level offenders on all sides of the conflict.

Syrian civil society has lent support for the creation of a special tribunal in the past.

In a meeting with United States’ special envoy to Syria in 2014, Radwan Ziadeh of the Syrian Center for Political & Strategic Studies insisted that a special court for Syria was needed to break the country’s cycle of impunity.

Ziadeh echoed that sentiment in a Google Hangout on the ICC and the UN Security Council that our Coalition hosted last July, saying that while his organization still advocates for an ICC referral, but that Syrians must look for other options—like a special tribunal—while the Security Council remains deadlocked.

 

Last May, a Security Council resolution referring Syria to the ICC was vetoed by Russia and China, despite having the support of nearly 60 states and hundreds of civil society organizations.

The UN Commission stated that it still supports efforts to secure an ICC referral, despite the veto threat. A sentiment shared civil society groups.

Last week, several organizations, including the International Federation for Human Rights and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies—both members of the Coalition for the ICC—called on the UN Human Rights Council to urge the Security Council to refer Syria to the Court.

 

In addition to the creation of a special court, the Syria commission has also urged states to carry out national investigations and prosecutions of those suspected of committing crimes in Syria. The commissioners indicated they were open to sharing evidence with governments with independent, impartial judiciaries willing take such action.

Have your say – is a special tribunal the best shot at justice for victims of grave crimes in Syria?

Read more about our efforts to end the use of the veto when suspected war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are occurring.