Crimes Against Humanity Committed in Syria
The peaceful protests that had started after the Arab Spring in Syria in March 2011, in time, turned into a revolt as a result of the reactions and pressures of the regime and then to a civil war when the armed opposition groups took some regions and cities of the country under control. The developments reveal that one of the biggest humanity dramas of the 21st century is taking place in Syria. We will leave three years of the Syrian crisis behind in March. But how did this happen? Is there a way out?
The father of Bashar al Assad, the late Hafez al Assad, had put his mark on history with the massacres in Hama and the Tarmoud Prison as the responsible party behind some of the biggest crimes of humanity committed in the Middle East in the 20th century. There was hope that the son Assad would start a period of reforms in Syria. However, this period called the Damascus Spring was ended shortly. The opposition trying to raise its voice, though weak, was suppressed. The 40-year-old autocratic government in Syria was re-questioned with the start of the Arab Spring. Al Assad who failed to meet the demands of freedom and democracy in the early years of his rulership ignored the same demands which resurfaced in 2011.
The regime forces (the police, the military, intelligence units and the Shabbiha militia) under al Assad tried to suppress the anti-government protests by using violence. However, they committed massive violation of human rights as the human rights organizations, the UN in particular, later on started to voice that crimes against humanity were being committed inSyria. At the outbreak of the civil war, the UN and human rights organizations again asserted that both the regime and some of the armed opposition groups committed war crimes and called the international community to take action in order to put an end to the violence in Syria.
Different from the violation of human rights, statute of limitation is inapplicable for crimes of humanity. Both crimes are defined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a UN document adopted for the establishment of the Court. According to the Statute; torture, rape, enforced disappearance of persons, forcible transfer of population; intentional infliction of condition of life inter alia the deprivation of access to food and medicine are among these crimes that are committed as part of a systematic or a widespread attack.
THE EVIDENCE FOR CRIME OF HUMANITY
Crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Syria have been in fact voiced by the UN and human rights organizations since 2011 through the stories of the victims, witnesses and other evidence. Although the stories of the victims and witnesses are included in reports, the groups supporting Bashar al Assad regime were considering that the findings are not sufficient to file charges against al Assad. Last week, however, a government defector exposed the war crimes committed by the State of Syria. The defector code named “Caesar” working as a photographer in the military police, took the photos of the captured. He provided to the opponents 55,000 photos of a total of 11,000 bodies that he had taken in the last two years. This has become a turning point. The commission consisting of a group of three former chief prosecutors in the War Crimes Tribunal approved the authenticity of the photos and the reliability of the source. Examinations revealed that the bodies in the photos showed signs of starvation, systematic torture, and strangulation.