1. Which Courts
1.1. The International Criminal Court
“The International Criminal Court (ICC or ICCt) is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague in the Netherlands. The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The ICC is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore only exercise its jurisdiction when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the United Nations Security Council or individual states refer investigations to the Court. ” (Source : Wikipedia.org)
This short description of the International Criminal Court explains a little bit two of its main short-comings : the International Criminal Court can only prosecute perpetrators of countries who have recognized the ICC ‘s jurisdiction or when the case has been referred to it by the United Nations Security Council.
The chance that the latter will happen in the case of the Syrian civil war is unfortunately zero. Two of the five permanent members of the Security Council, Russia, itself being accused of perpetrating war crimes in Syria, and China have been consistently vetoing any attempt to refer perpetrators to the International Criminal Court. The Syrian dictatorship, from the other side, never recognized the Court’s jurisdiction.
Submitting the Syrian Petition to the ICC is therefore a highly symbolic action.
The aim is to put into the spotlight its shortcomings : the lack of universal jurisdiction (meaning : it can not investigate and prosecute any crime against humanity perpetrated anywhere on the world) and the fact that any permanent member of the UN Security Council can veto a referral.
It is through these shortcomings that perpetrators in Syria could act with seemingly a sense of impunity, like complained about by international relieve and human rights organizations. After all, Russia and China would veto any referral.
In the 21st century, when crimes against humanity are committed, no country should have the right to veto referral or not to recognize the ICC ‘s jurisdiction.
1.2. National courts
Most European countries recognized the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction and signed and ratified all the Geneva Conventions. Many have put in place the necessary legislation that enables them to vest universal jurisdiction in their courts. And that is the way it should be.
So it is before these courts that we will undertake legal action.
2. Whom will we prosecute
The universal jurisdiction applies to all persons directly or indirectly responsible.
It might be difficult to try those directly responsible, since they enjoy the UN Security Council protection of Russia and China.
On the other hand, many elements indicate that Western political and business leaders might have acted in a criminal manner.
With a sheer unbelievable brazenness, year after year, they refused to live up to their obligations deriving from international treaties and ordinary criminal law. After all, with all their political and economic power, who would dare to raise their voice to accuse them ?
For mainly commercial reasons they simply brushed off the yearly reports about the grave breaches of International Humanitarian Law and did not take commensurate and timely actions. This largely contributed to the sense of impunity that seemed to inspire the cruelty of the crimes.
We will do everything in our power to get this into the courts in order to trigger a serious and deep society debate.