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The rights of the victims in Syria will not die with the statute of limitations

August 21, 2023 at 5:30 pm

Children smile at a refugee camp as Syrian civilians live under harsh conditions in Idlib, Syria on July 6, 2023 [İzzeddin Kasim – Anadolu Agency]

When one of the most heinous massacres is committed against the Syrian people with internationally-banned chemical weapons, which was the case with the Ghouta massacre on 21 August 2013 that claimed the lives of 1,400 civilians, including women, children and the elderly, in addition to injuring 10,000, and the war criminal Bashar Al-Assad, who committed the massacre, remains at large and continues to commit chemical attacks (more than 200 attacks to date), this is a dangerous and wrong message from the international community to the tyrannical and oppressive Assad regime. It is also a dangerous and wrong message to the Syrian people who have been subjected to this crime, sending them the message that an infinite number of crimes can be committed and justice will not be served. 

This message is dangerous because it paves the way for the rhetoric of extremism and terrorism to manipulate people’s minds and tells them that all the slogans of the international community about justice, holding criminals accountable and human rights are nothing more than nonsense and have no real value, and that the solution is violence and chaos.

This is definitely not what we want, and we share the idea with the international community that there is a need to prevent the spread of this destructive and damaging discourse. The lack of action also gives the green light to continue committing more crimes and massacres and promotes the policy of impunity for criminals. The important question facing the international community remains: Where are the rights of the victims? 

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The horrific and painful images of the victims of that massacre and other massacres are still fresh in the minds of Syrians in general, and the families of the victims in particular, and we are all awaiting accountability.

Instead of issuing a decision to drag the war criminal, Bashar Al-Assad, to the ICC to receive his punishment for the crimes he committed, the Syrians were surprised that the doors were instead opened to him to participate in the recent Arab summit, and measures to normalise relations with him were carried out by his fellow Arab countries! Syrians felt pain, anger and resentment at the regime’s return to the Arab League, because they did not expect their fellow Arab countries to treat Iran’s subordinate in Syria like this. On the contrary, they were hoping for the Arabs to continue to apply pressure to keep the train of the political solution on track and to push it to implement international resolutions related to the Syrian issue, especially Geneva I Communique and Resolutions 2254 and 2118.

Today, after a sufficient period of time has passed since the free normalisation measures were taken, it has become clear that the Assad regime is unable and unwilling to offer anything to reach the desired political solution, and all it wants from Arab normalisation is to obtain large sums of money, to loot under the pretext of “reconstruction” just as it looted Syria’s wealth over the course of five decades, and what remained of it was plundered by the Russians and Iranians.

Now what is required of the international community is to restore matters to normal and return to the path that leads to a sustainable political solution, based on international decisions in order to achieve a political transition. There must be a parallel path of transitional justice that leads criminals to fair trials, and then achieves the voluntary return of refugees to a safe and neutral environment.

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This will only be achieved by putting pressure on the Assad regime and hinting at the possibility of using Article 7 of Resolution 2118, which provides for the possibility of using force to implement international resolutions.

Without that, the Assad regime will continue to manipulate, practice deception, waste time, continue to export Captagon, and move forward with its slogan that it raised since the beginning of the revolution “Assad or we burn the country.”

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 21 August 2023

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.