International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Syrian Troops’ Execution Video

Recently, a video emerged that allegedly showed Syrian rebels executing captured government troops. The video appears to show the Syrian rebels beating 10 soldiers and then lining them up on the ground and executing them with automatic rifles. According to the United Nations, if the video were verified, the executions on the video would constitute a war crime and the video could possibly be used as evidence in court. Although the actions in the video are apparent, the perpetrators are not because according to Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Like other videos of this sort, it’s difficult to verify immediately in terms of location, who’s involved.” This video just further shows members of the international community and human rights organizations that the situation in Syria is only worsening. Michael Hayworth from Amnesty International stated, “The international community had the option, had the ability, to stop this conflict and introduce accountability into Syria months and months ago when the crisis started. They have absolutely failed. The UN Security Council has absolutely failed the civilians of Syria and these sorts of incidents are the result of an out of control conflict.” With the Syrian rebels taking control over more areas and towns and with the death toll believed to be at almost 40,000, it is clear that this conflict needs to be stopped. Though there have been numerous calls for the members of the international community to step in and do something about this conflict, no major moves have been made. Could this video be a part of that turning point?


3 responses to “Syrian Troops’ Execution Video

  1. Pingback: Can (Well-Meaning) Individuals Impede Peace and Justice? « The Politics of International Justice

  2. patrickwu November 12, 2012 at 3:03 am

    In the same vein as this, this was recently spread around the internet: Be warned that there are some intense images in this compilation.

    In pictures 6 to 9, a group of rebels are firing upon an unarmed person who is suspected to be pro-government. In pictures 27 to 31, a civilian is being shot at by a Syrian army sniper and ultimately hit in the stomach and back. These pictures and your post are evidence that war crimes are being committed by both sides. It is interesting to investigate the role that politics plays when it comes to an international consensus on who to side with. With Libya, it was very clear that most of the international community wanted to side with the Libyan rebels. Muammar Gaddafi was not a popular leader within the Arab world and the West, so justification for an intervention was easy. The subsequent NATO intervention pushed the rebels to victory. The ICC has promised to investigate the crimes of Libyan rebels, but so far it has only indicted three individuals related to the pro-government side of the conflict.

    Syria, on the other hand, is one of Russia’s only ally in the Mideast region. Russia also sits on the UN Security Council as one of its permanent members. Any attempt at invoking the Chapter VII powers will most likely be vetoed by Russia, so the UNSC will most likely not be able to act on Syria. Even if NATO acted on its own, without a UNSC approval, it would still have to have Russia’s withdrawal of support from Syria so it won’t ruin relations through the NATO-Russia council. An ICC intervention on Syria will probably not stop the bloodshed–the indictment of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity against Bashir did nothing except worsen relationships between the ICC and Sudan.

    In short, it is very unlikely that this video will be the turning point for foreign investigations. It will garner international criticisms, but it is one of many damning pieces of evidence against both sides of the Syrian conflict that has done nothing to convince the international community that intervention is needed right now.

  3. awoodz November 13, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    @Ookesanya: the article you posted is intriguing to me particularly because of the sheer range of agents represented in the article who are concretely or abstractly involved (or trying to be involved) in the Syrian conflict. There is of course the Assad regime and the rebel armies, but moving beyond that there is the United States, Russia, Amnesty International, the UNSC, the ICC and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights all perceiving, discussing and judging events as they unfold on the ground (and this is only one article we’re talking about here). This reminds me very much of Victor Peskin’s concept of “virtual trials” that we read about for class. The international community is actively contemplating and debating the need for legal retribution as the core conflict is occurring; thus, there is, in a sense, a virtual trial already in the works, a demonstrated desire to assign accountability and incriminate individuals as a political means of stopping the conflict. Facts that surface – such as the video discussed above – that shed light on violence in the region are immediately assigned a legal meaning (e.g. the UN verifying that the video was indeed a “war crime”) and archived by the international community as potential evidence for future prosecution. Present political conflict is virtually reframed as a future legal case.

    While Peskin uses “virtual trials” to talk primarily about power struggles between ICC judicial processes and (non)cooperating states, I think it can be asserted that there is a global virtual trial about not just politics but values currently happening in regards to Syria. Patrickwu, you make a really good point about how the violence being perpetrated on both sides is making it difficult for the international community to support one side particularly and to find a justification for intervention. Indeed, I think the ambivalent value judgments underpinning international involvement with the Syrian conflict is making it hard to say who is right and who is wrong, and therefore who should be chosen as litigants in the virtual trial already taking place. In order to intervene and enforce the rule of international law, it seems that there needs to be some semblance of international consensus about who is “most responsible,” and videos like the one being discussed only complicate the matter.

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