Today marks the sixth anniversary of conflict and civil war in Syria. On March 15, 2011, protesters flooded the streets of Damascus and Aleppo in retaliation of the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Since then, the death toll has surpassed 400,000 according to Staffan de Mistura, United Nations special envoy to Syria.
That equates to one in every 100 Syrians killed as a result of unresolved conflict.
Innocent civilians are victims of countless heinous war crimes including executions, torture, extermination, and deliberate attacks on homes, medical facilities, and schools.
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To date, these victims have seen no justice in spite of countless continued calls to action. Now, organizations are getting fed up, and demanding answers not just to end conflict, but for war criminals to pay the price of their crimes.
Amnesty International, which has widely documented war crimes in Syria wants to ensure that the perpetrators do not go unpunished.
The Justice for Syria campaign, led by the global watchdog, calls on governments around the world to end impunity, making accountability a reality for Syrian people.
“Governments already have the legal tools at their disposal to end the impunity that has allowed hundreds of thousands of Syrians to be killed and millions more displaced,” said Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International’s Beirut Regional Office. “It is time to put those tools into action.”
Many countries around the world can prosecute for crimes committed in Syria. This mechanism of prosecution is called Universal Jurisdiction and today, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland are all in the process of using this method to investigate crimes in the war-torn country.
The campaign also calls for people to support and fund the United Nations resolution establishing an investigative mechanism in Syria. The resolution, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2016, offered new hope for Syrians everywhere.
Humanitarian workers like Hadid believe this is pivotal in the pathway to justice.
“By adopting this resolution, the international community has sent a message of hope to the people of Syria: a promise that the world has not left them behind, that those responsible for their suffering will not go unpunished,” she said.
An entire generation of Syrian children have suffered the worst year yet in education. The country’s healthcare system is destroyed. More than four-fifths of the country live in poverty and basic infrastructure — like the electricity grid, roads, and water lines — is in shambles.
These conditions have created the worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.
Sadly, as conditions worsen, countries around the world are closing their doors on refugees.
Over the course of the past nine days, President Trump’s revised ban on immigrants from predominantly Muslim nations has taken full effect.
The new refugee ban limits the total number of accepted refugees permitted in the United States to 50,000 by claiming that any additional refugee would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Former President Obama had agreed to take in 100,000 refugees.
"Action on Syria must include offering safety to those fleeing grave danger,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of AIUSA. “With so many people displaced, it is more urgent than ever that U.S. policies embrace refugees, rather scapegoating them for the very terror and violence they are escaping."
International diplomatic efforts to bring the crisis to an end have repeatedly failed as outside actors have changed the nature of the war.
If the crisis is referred by the UN Security Council, these perpetrators will finally sit in front of the International Criminal Court. But since 2014, both Russia and China have vetoed the move.
“There is no excuse for allowing the horrific crimes under international law that are being committed in Syria to go unpunished,” Hadid said. The pathway to justice will be a long and arduous one.
To learn more and take part with Amnesty International to seek justice for Syria go here.