More than three years into the Syrian war, during which well over 100,000 people have been killed and torture has become commonplace, a sense of impunity still persists on all sides.
More than 100 civil society groups from all over the world have now decided to combat this by issuing the following statement. They push for the United Nations Security Council to approve the desperately needed resolution as a step to enable a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute for war crimes:
"We, the undersigned civil society groups, urge United Nations Security Council members to approve a draft resolution supported by a broad coalition of countries that would refer the situation in Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)."
As a permanent international court with a mandate to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity when national authorities are unable or unwilling to do so, the ICC was created to address exactly the type of situation that exists in Syria today. Human Rights Watch calls this a vital "first step" and urges Security Council members to fill the accountability gap in Syria immediately.
It is no surprise that neither the Syrian authorities nor the leaders of non-state armed groups have taken any significant steps to push accountability for past and ongoing grave human rights crimes. HRW reported that the failure to hold to account those responsible for these violations has encouraged further atrocities by all sides. Against this background, HRW believes that the ICC is the medium that can investigate most effectively and prosecute the people responsible for war crimes in Syria.
The latest report from the UN's Syria Commission of Inquiry, published on March 5, found that the Security Council was "failing to take action to end the state of impunity". Along with the support of more than 60 UN member countries the inquiry team has continued to urge the Security Council to give the ICC a mandate to investigate abuses in Syria.
HRW now insists, and asks for other countries and organisations to shoulder this responsibility, that Russia and China do not use their veto to obstruct these steps towards accountability.
MEMO spoke to the former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), Professor David Crane at Syracuse University, who co-authored the report on torture use in Syrian detention centres that went viral earlier this year. He explained that the international community believes that now is the political moment to take action, with France at the forefront, to force Russia, which is gaining a reputation as an aggressor in political affairs around the world, to say "yes" or "no".