As the world marked 10 years since the start of the uprising in Syria last week, renewed efforts are under way to hold President Bashar al-Assad’s government accountable for abuses in the war-torn country.
Canada announced this month that it is joining the Netherlands in an international effort to seek justice under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, a process that ultimately could trigger a case at the UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“The Syrian regime has cruelly and systematically repressed and committed crimes against its own population, causing unimaginable suffering,” the Canadian and Dutch foreign ministers, Marc Garneau and Stef Blok, said in a joint statement on March 12.
But how exactly do Canada and the Netherlands intend to hold the Syrian government accountable for torture, what does the process entail, and what could accountability look like in this case? [Continue reading…]
Among the millions of Syrians who fled as the government bombed their towns, destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones are 150 families squatting in a soccer stadium in the northwestern city of Idlib, sheltering in rickety tents under the stands or in the rocky courtyard.
Work is scarce and terror grips them whenever jets buzz overhead: New airstrikes could come at any time. But the fear of government retribution keeps them from returning home. More than 1,300 similar camps dot Syria’s last bastions under rebel control, eating up farmland, stretching along irrigation canals and filling lots next to apartment buildings where refugee families squat in damaged units with no windows.
“People will stay in these places with all the catastrophes before they go live under the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” said Okba al-Rahoum, the manager of the camp in the soccer stadium.
On a rare visit to Idlib Province, examples abounded of shocked and impoverished people trapped in a murky and often violent limbo. Stuck between a wall to prevent them from fleeing across the nearby border with Turkey and a hostile government that could attack at any moment, they struggle to secure basic needs in a territory controlled by a militant group formerly linked to Al Qaeda.
In the decade since Syria’s war began, the forces of President Bashar al-Assad crushed communities that revolted against him, and millions of people fled to new lives of uncertainty — in neighboring countries, Europe and pockets of Syria outside of Mr. al-Assad’s grip, including the rebel-held northwest. [Continue reading…]