Annex 4 : Western Leaders and The Crime of Omission

The first who mentioned the possibility of complicity for reason of criminal omission to the crimes against humanity committed in Syria, was the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, in 2014.

The crime of omission means in International Humanitarian Law pretty much the same as in ordinary criminal law : the failure to act knowing that this failure will cause the crime to happen. Those found guilty for this reason might be sentenced to imprisonment or other punishments.

Five conditions have to be fulfilled in order to be recognized as Crime of Omission. As probably first, we publish in how far they apply to the behavior of Western leaders during the Syrian civil war.

1. The accused must have had a legal duty to act : check !

The Geneva Conventions, signed and ratified by most Western countries, require that States do all in their power to make stop genocidal massacres, mass torture and killing of prisoners, systematic bombing of schools, bakeries, hospitals, use of indiscriminate weapons against the civilian population, like barrel bombs, chemical weapons…..

The failure of international organizations like the United Nations or the European Union to act, does not exempt the individual countries from these obligations.

2. The accused must have had the ability to act : check !

States have several peaceful tools at their disposal to fulfill the duty “to do all in their power”: (i) diplomatic protest, (ii) imposing sanctions (iii) in case of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions : vest universal jurisdiction in their courts…

The Western leaders had absolutely the ability to use those tools.

3. The accused must have had an elevated degree of concrete influence : check !

International observers agree that Assad’s war machine was essentially kept afloat by Putin’s financial and military support. Knowing that Europe alone finances through its oil and gas trade with Russia, 35 % of the Russian federal budget, it is not exaggerated to postulate that Assad’s war machine was essentially fueled with European money. This gives Europe definitely an elevated degree of concrete influence.

The economic ties between the US and Russia are dwarfed by the European ones, so US’ possibilities to exercise pressure by means of economic sanctions were much lesser. From the other side, through its outstanding diplomatic and economic position as a world power, the US has other peaceful means to exercise pressure.

4. The accused failed to act, (…)with awareness (…) that the consequences would occur : check !

Though many of the documented war crimes are considered grave breaches of International Humanitarian Law, the US and Europe simply refused to live up to their obligations.

They did not order their courts to investigate and they only imposed sanctions on the weakest party to the conflict, the Assad regime, and spared completely those arming, financing and participating in those crimes : Russia and Iran.

Western leaders did this in full “awareness” of the consequences. Since the conflict is lasting for six years, they were fully aware that the lack of timely and appropriate pressure would lead to the continuation of the atrocities.

5. The failure to act resulted in the commission of the crime : check !

This became all too obvious from September 2015 onwards, when Putin decided to engage his army more. It heralded an unprecedented intensity in air bombardments and crimes against humanity committed in their wake, culminating in the as yet worst period of the Syrian war, the assault on East-Aleppo end November/beginning December 2016.

Our conclusion : Western leaders did not live up to their treaty obligations to undertake whatever is in their power to make a genocidal massacre stop. This renders them to our humble opinion clearly guilty of complicity for reason of criminal omission. Reason why we ask the Court to investigate the part the cited politicians and businessmen played and to eventually prosecute them.

On our web page you will find a more detailed discussion of this subject.