President Hollande and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insist the prosecution of war crimes is not a matter of if, but when. Last week, as host of a Paris summit of Friends of the Syrian People, French president François Hollande made it his first order of business to pledge “no impunity for crimes” by Syrian leaders. The US State Department has collected war crimes evidence since spring 2011.
Mr. Zimeray described Syria as an “endless Guernica” after visiting its border this year, and told the Monitor that after four years and 97 trips to world trouble spots, he had never encountered “such cruelty, cruelty inside of violence … that is manifest in the criminal attitude of [Assad’s] regime.”
Yet, even as various tribunals at The Hague this week marked progress – the first verdict coming from the ICC in the Lubanga child soldiers trial, and the first witness testimony in the trial of Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic – the wheels of justice on Syria are tangled in conflicting interests by emerging world power blocs.
“Russia and China are the hurdles, definitely,” says Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch, which this month published a report describing an “archipelago” of some 27 torture centers around Syria, including locations and the names of at least half of the commanding officers in charge of them.
While a war crimes investigation might not have an immediate impact on the conflict, the fact that enough evidence exists amid ongoing atrocities is a point diplomats feel can play a role in the court of world opinion, if not in Moscow or Beijing.