International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

The Fate of Assad

Much has already been made of the comments by UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, that Assad could be assured of safe passage and exile from Syria. Cameron defends the remark by arguing that the priority should be on stopping the killing, implying that justice may be too idealistic. I have noted the pragmatic and principled issues with the exile option before.

His removal and subsequent regime change would stop the killing –  but in what scenario would Assad face justice? Getting him to the ICC would require a UN Security Council referral, which is unlikely given Russia’s inevitable opposition. Facing justice in Syria would first require regime change, a la Libya, and the international community would rightly be concerned about the feasibility of impartial trials.

We can resign ourselves to the impossibility of justice in the short term, however, an offer of exile and amnesty is not likely to be credible to Assad anyways. The issue does remind us that we largely don’t know how and whether leaders who commit mass killings make rational calculations about their exit strategies.


One response to “The Fate of Assad

  1. yaljarani November 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    The current regime is led by Assad as much as it is led by the security apparatus built by his father. While Hafez al-Assad built the state, Assad inherited it and it is not likely he has as much sway in its affairs as his father did. The decision to leave may not be entirely up to Assad. Regardless of the plausibility of an exit strategy in the eyes of Assad, he, like Gadhafi and Mubarak before him, has recently vowed never to leave Syria (1). It is hard to say whether or not he really means that. While rationality may be bounded by circumstance and one’s personal entourage, Assad has likely kept up with the news. Mubarak was put in critical condition and Gadhafi brutally killed for sticking to their guns. One of the main Western impediments to aiding the Syrian opposition groups has been lifted with a new opposition coalition signed by Syria’s disseminated sources of political authority (2). With a close election now over, Obama need not worry as much about a slight drop in public opinion polling for increasing aid to those forces. The extradition and trial of Charles Taylor made it clear to rights perpetrators that, depending on the extent of one’s crimes, exile may not be as fail-safe an option as it once was.

    With a Security Council referral about as unlikely as Assad taking an exit strategy at this point, it seems the only way he will be brought to justice is with the fall of his regime. Assuming he doesn’t suffer the same fate as Gadhafi, which could be the case, the international community can work with the Syrian opposition coalition to ensure as fair a trial as possible. Negotiations with Libya over Abdullah Senussi and Saif Gadhafi have shown that this process may not be easy and concessions will likely have to be made, but it appears to be the most realistic scenario we have to work with right now.


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