Referring Syria to the ICC for Its Indiscriminate Killers

Written by: Zainab Alam

On 14 May 2014, the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations (UN) hosted Barrel Bombs: Syria's Indiscriminate Killers at the UN Headquarters in New York. The panelists included Mr. Ibrahim Al-Assil, Executive Director of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement, Dr. Samer Attar, an American Orthopedic Surgeon of Syrian descent who volunteered in Syria during the ongoing crisis and Ms. Peggy Hicks, Global Advocacy Director from Human Rights Watch. While the event was not presented through a gender lens, it highlighted the humanitarian destruction and human insecurity that has ensued as a result of the widespread use of barrel bombs in Syria. In so doing, it supported WILPF's ongoing call for an integrated approach to security that promotes women's and men's human security not just militarized state security in preventing conflict and promoting peace.

Moderator and Head of Economic and Social Affairs at the Dutch Mission, Mr. Peter van der Vliet, explained that UN Security Council (SC) Resolution 2139 strongly condemns aerial bombardment in populated areas and that the use of barrel bombs constitutes a violation of human rights and international law. Mr. Al-Assil, who has witnessed the bombs first-hand described the bombing as “a type of collective punishment that targets civilians and it's the main reason that makes civilians leave Aleppo.” The bombs are filled with chemicals, such as chlorine, and metal fragments that cause extensive damage when combined with the explosives in the barrel. Dr. Attar explained the dire situation of physicians in Syria from his experience taking care of wounded victims for two weeks in August 2013 and two weeks in April 2014. Ms. Hicks identified the barrel bomb damage in satellite imagery and the documented trends of how they have been dropped in residential areas. The images showed the scalloped edge signature of barrel bombs, which cause larger zones of destruction than other bombs and the trends showed the indiscriminate nature of such attacks.

Ambassadors from various missions to the UN subsequently addressed the need for the international community to become more aware of the indiscriminate attacks and war crimes taking place in Syria and many called for the situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. WILPF also firmly believes that these war crimes and crimes against humanity should not go unpunished and that the Syrian people deserve justice. In this spirit, we signed the petition supporting the UNSC Resolution to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) alongside 116 other civil society organizations on 15 May 2014. Ultimately, Russia and China vetoed the UNSC resolution referring the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the ICC on 22 May 2014. For a complete analysis of this disappointing SC meeting, click here.

See the webcast of the Barrel Bombs: Syria's Indiscriminate Killers here.