Pursuing Accountability in Syria
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After over five years of war in Syria, civilians have not only been frequently caught in the crossfire, but have been intentionally targeted. According to an array of sources, homes, schools, hospitals, places of worship and cultural heritage have been destroyed - in particular during the recent siege of Aleppo - and civilians have been subjected to sexual violence, enslavement, terrorism, and other incidents. Additionally, acts undertaken by the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham against the Yazidi people in northern Iraq and Syria have sparked particular outrage and a push for accountability. In the view of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, amongst others, many of these acts amount to genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. However, many of these incidents have been perpetrated with seeming impunity, particularly in light of the UN Security Council gridlock that has prevented a referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.
Considering these ongoing atrocities, this episode of the podcast will examine the prospects for accountability for war crimes and other serious violations of international law in Syria, including the particular case of the Yazidis. Through discussions with experts and practitioners, the conversation will explore ongoing efforts to investigate, document, and prosecute these crimes while also supporting victims and affected communities. It will highlight challenges or gaps in available mechanisms for enforcement and consider alternative strategies for achieving justice.
- What are the prospects for accountability in Syria, and what does justice or accountability mean in this context?
- What fora are available to hold perpetrators of mass atrocity crimes accountable?
- What challenges stand in the way of accountability, and how can they be overcome?
- What is needed to better support victims and survivors and to prevent such crimes from recurring?
Extended Segment 1 on war crimes in Syria: Ambassador Stephen Rapp, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, 2009-2015; Yousuf Syed Khan, Legal Analyst
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Extended Segment 2 on the Yazidi genocide: Sareta Ashraph, Chief Legal Analyst, UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, 2012-2016; Murad Ismael, Executive Director, Yazda; Naomi Kikoler, Deputy Director, Center for the Prevention of Genocide, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
If the audio player above does not load, you can listen to Extended Segment 2 here.
Chief Legal Analyst, UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, 2012-2016
Executive Director, Yazda Organization
Yousuf Syed Khan
Deputy Director, Center for the Prevention of Genocide, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Ambassador Stephen Rapp
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, 2009-2015
- UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic "Special inquiry into the events in Aleppo", February 2, 2017, A/HRC/34/64, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G17/026/63/PDF/G1702663.pdf?OpenElement.
- “Syria: UN Approves Mechanism to Lay Groundwork for Investigations into Possible War Crimes.” UN News Service, December 22, 2016. https://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55862#.WJjJhLYrLBI.
- Alex Whiting. “The UN General Assembly’s Historic Resolution on Accountability for Syria: What It Means and What Are Its Limits.” Just Security, December 22, 2016. https://www.justsecurity.org/35795/syria-general-assembly-sidesteps-secu....
- Mark Kersten, “Calls for Prosecuting War Crimes in Syria Are Growing. Is International Justice Possible?” Washington Post, October 14, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/10/14/calls-for-....
Sareta Ashraph, “Acts of Annihilation.” The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Winter 2017, https://www.thecairoreview.com/essays/gender-and-genocide/.