Syria jumped on the revolutionary bandwagon January of 2011, and the protesters that comprise the movement have witnessed one of the most brutal authoritarian crackdowns in the country’s history. Recently, the United States and European Union have initiated pretty meaningless sanctions in order to “put their foot down” and encourage Syria’s government to ease up on protesters. 13 sanctions were issued specifically to Syrian officials, but none addressed President Bashar al-Hassad (one sanction was even directed toward his brother and not him). While the United States and NATO have pursued Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak harshly, and encouraging each to resign from their posts, there has been little attention given towards Syria’s notorious President. The EU claimed that al-Assad “could face sanctions” but didn’t outline anything remotely concrete.
Even if sanctions were levied against Bashar al-Assad himself, it may not be enough to stop his regime’s terror-inflicting control and attempts to stifle the protesters who yearn for freedom. al-Hassad’s regime has tried to silence the uprising by using intense violence with a police-state mentality. The Ba’ath party’s power retention and subsequent undermining of the citizens they control is somewhat reminiscent of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. (Might I emphasize that this is not a George W. Bush-esque call to arms suggestion to invade Syria, just clarifying). Much of what al-Assad’s regime is known for is similar to Saddam Hussein’s time in power in Iraq. Citizens who are oppressed have recently taken to the streets. Many have been killed or tortured, several others displaced, and some journalists have even gone missing. Al-Jazeera’s Dorothy Parvaz reportedly left for Syria on April 29th, and has not been heard from since. Al-Jazeera’s demands to know her whereabouts have so far gone unmet.
The use of lethal force to disperse demonstrations is within a government’s prerogative—Bloody Sunday (when British paratroopers notoriously killed 13 Irish republican demonstrators) was not an international crime. But a month of Bloody Sundays—the like of which in Syria has produced nearly 800 dead so far—is a different matter. It counts as a crime against humanity, and it is now time for the Security Council to refer al-Assad and certain members of his family to the International Criminal Court.
Geoffrey Robertson from the Daily Beast says it best. Its ridiculous that sanctions weren’t brought against al-Assad himself by the United States and European Union. The sanctions themselves are merely a slap on the wrist, but to not levy any against al-Assad is a major lapse in judgement (and thats putting it kindly).
The utter destruction and vulgarity that is associated with the attempts to quell the public fury is undeniably awful. Bashar al-Assad is a cold-blooded killer of his own people, and needs to be brought to justice. The movements of revolution in the Arab world have brought to the public’s eye some of the most horrible and oppressive dictators in the world, and al-Assad is seemingly one of them.
Things like this are reminiscent of the days that the Rwandan Genocide took place. The kill count is certainly not as high, but the facilitation by the country’s leaders to kill its own people are eerily similar. The ICTR was established and prosecuted many individuals convicted of crimes against humanity in Rwanda. The U.S. failed in responding to the Rwandan Genocide in a timely fashion, hopefully the same won’t be said for the U.S.’s recognition of al-Assad as a serious threat to Democracy and a unholy tyrannical ruler of the people of Syria. Its time that al-Assad’s name be chalked up on the “crimes against humanity” board.
(photo credit: wikimedia commons)