Ms. Carla Del Ponte was the head of the UN investigation looking into war crimes in Syria. She began her mission at the beginning of the war and has finally given up and declared her failure. Despite over half a million innocent victims, she was not able to summon one killer to trial. This is why she says that she is frustrated and tendered her resignation.
With her departure, only two members of the original five-member committee remain as each of the other three went their own way, leaving behind the ugliest war in modern times without anyone to monitor it. Despite her vast experience in cases such as the war crimes in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, the resigned official was unable to kick off a trial over Syria. Commenting on Syria, she said that it was the worst of the wars she has ever seen combined!
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Even though we cannot but thank her and the international team for their efforts, despite their failure, we realize that international powers thwarted the prosecution and trials of perpetrators, not because they do not want them or because there are no criminals and evidence. Crimes were in fact committed against the Syrian people and they would not have happened had it not been for the evil forces in the world conspiring against them and had it not been for the good forces’ complacency in stopping them.
The Syrian tragedy is a result of the work of these powers. The war in Syria is not like the one that took place in Yugoslavia, where people fought each other after the collapse of a regime, or in Rwanda, where tribes fought each other.
In Syria, a regime is committing crimes directly against civilian gatherings in areas of uprising. It shelled neighborhoods with bombs, barrel bombs and artillery simply due to the weakness of its forces and defection of its soldiers. It could not have been able to directly combat the fighters.
Similar to Bosnia
What makes Syria similar to Bosnia is the targeting of civilians in order to displace them and eliminate the possibility of the establishment of an authority on any liberated ground. The difference between the two tragedies is that in Syria, the crime was committed by a regime that still stands and very few sides jumped to the aid of those who were targeted.
The UN official also justified her resignation by saying that the Syrian scene has been depleted of good forces and only evildoers are left fighting each other, saying that all of them are war criminals. This is partially true, especially during the last phase. But this is a justification of the failure of an international organization and it does not give it the excuse to abandon one of the main missions that it has bound itself to. Instead of withdrawing and abandoning its duty, why does it not try all the perpetrators, starting from the government to the opposition, should war criminals be among them.
There is no excuse for failing to put war criminals on trial.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
The trial of murderers does not need evidence because several of the crimes in Syria are documented and evidence was gathered by recognized international organizations.
“If the Dead Could Speak: Mass Deaths and Torture in Syria’s Detention Facilities.” This was the title of an international report that was compiled three years ago. It contained 28,000 photographs that shocked the world and showed the greatest of atrocities committed in the past 50 years.
None of the victims were killed on the fields of war, but in the basements of the regime prisons. All of the photographs were taken by the regime itself and in its prisons. The crimes were secretly documents to prove that its workers, from torturers to wardens, were fulfilling their duties as they were told!
The photographs were leaked however by people who could not remain silent over those horrendous crimes. These are internationally-recognized documents. They were verified by international organizations, some of which are even affiliated with the UN itself.
In the Syrian revolt, there are no excuses for the investigators. There are enough documented and proven crimes to convict the Syrian regime. There are others that also convict some of the extremist opposition groups. They too deserve to be held accountable in the same way.
It is hard for me to imagine that the perpetrators in the Syrian war would not be held accountable no matter how often governments change their calculations among themselves.
There is no excuse for failing to put war criminals on trial. The excuse that the head of the resigned UN investigation that the opposition is no longer better than the government is not justified and it does not justify turning a blind eye and shirking ones responsibilities.
Those who speak confidently and gladly of a political solution, an end to the Syrian war and of burying the past are delusional in believing that millions of Syrians could return to their homes and forget, as if the crimes of the past six-and-a-half years and the half a million dead were just a television series that they can shut off and then go to sleep. Several people in our world will not be able to close their eyes. What happened cannot be forgiven because governments chose to forget and forgive and opted to reward the murderers with power and privileges.
Whoever signs their name on such a wrongful and unjust deal will have it covered in blood like the regime in Damascus, Tehran and their allies.
This article was first published here.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.