The United National (UN) Security Council should seriously interrogate the possibility of referring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) should leverage South Africa’s representation in the UN Security Council to call for more decisive international action in Syria.
The violence in Syria continues to escalate. Most recently, the world saw horrifying images of a massacre in the Syrian town of Houla in which 109 civilians, including 32 children under the age of ten, were killed.
UN reports confirm that more than 9000 people have died in the suppression of civil liberty protests which began in March last year. Whilst rebel groups are becoming increasingly well organized, UN observers report that the majority of the serious human rights violations are committed by the Syrian army and security services.
The UN is deploying 300 unarmed military observers in Syria. The observers are supposed to monitor the truce negotiated by UN Arab League envoy Kofi Annan on 12 April.
As events unfold in Syria, it is becoming increasingly clear that al-Assad’s regime is not deterred by the tentative action taken by the UN.
Continued delays in coordinating appropriate action in Syria can be considered a failure by the international community to fulfil its “responsibility to protect”. South Africa contributed to this failure when it did not support UN intervention in Syria when it was voted on in the UN Security Council in October last year.
A report released by Amnesty International this week claims that repeated vetoes against decisive action in Syria has left the UN Security Council "looking redundant as a guardian of global peace" and accused South Africa as being "complicit through [its] silence".
Our support of the UN resolution on Syria in February 2012 was a step in the right direction, but DIRCO must break its silence on the referral of al-Assad’s regime to the International Criminal Court and has to continue to push for appropriate action in Syria to prevent an outright civil war.
As is shown in the images coming from Houla, the lives of innocent civilians are at stake.