Some in Congress want to make sure that even if Syria averts strikes with stalling or a deal brokered by Russia, Bashar al-Assad won’t be off the hook for massacring more than 1,400 people with sarin.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of the Helsinki Commission, today introduced a resolution calling on the UN Security Council to refer Assad to the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Considering Russia shot down a French proposal today to open Assad up to punishing strikes if he doesn’t follow through on promises to dismantle his chemical weapons stockpile, it’s certain that Moscow would use its veto power to keep ally and arms client Assad out of a tribunal.
Cardin, a strong backer of sanctions against Russian officials involved in the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, is not a favorite of the Kremlin.
“Assad’s criminal use of chemical weapons against his own people is morally reprehensible and violates the rules of war. The international community cannot stand by and allow the cowardly murder of innocent men, women, and children to go unchallenged. We must bring Assad and all other perpetrators of gross human rights violations in the Syrian conflict to justice,” the senator said.
“The ICC was established as a mechanism for deterring future atrocities by holding perpetrators accountable. Separate from any military response, rogue actors around the globe —from Tehran to Pyongyang – should know that the civilized world will not tolerate their belligerence,” Cardin continued. “A referral to the ICC would demonstrate the commitment of the U.S. and the international community to bringing all perpetrators of international crimes in Syria to justice, while also sending a strong signal to perpetrators of abuses around the world.”
The resolution cites not just the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack but the death toll of more than 100,000 since March 2011, the extreme humanitarian crisis and refugee flow, summary executions and sexual violence, and more crimes of Assad and his shabiha militants.
The resolution “strongly condemns the ongoing violence, the use of chemical weapons, and the systematic gross human rights violations carried out by Syrian government forces under direction of President Bashar al-Assad as well as abuses committed by other groups involved in the civil war in Syria; expresses its support for the people of Syria seeking peaceful democratic change; and calls on the United Nations Security Council, based on evidence that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been perpetrated in Syria, to refer the situation of Syria to the International Criminal Court.”
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) has introduced a similar resolution in the House the past two sessions with a handful of co-sponsors including Republicans Tom Cole (Okla.) and Aaron Schock (Ill.).