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A Tribunal for Syria?

September 27, 2013

Yesterday, War Crimes Watch (a digital service that provides occasional summaries of relevant international criminal law proceedings and/or publications, done by Case Western Reserve School of Law and the Public International Law & Policy Group) reported the following:

A blue ribbon panel of former international tribunal chief prosecutors, international judges, and leading experts has prepared a Draft Statute for a Syrian Extraordinary Tribunal to Prosecute Atrocity Crimes.  It’s being called the “Chautauqua Blueprint” because it was finalized on the margins of a recent conference of several of the chief prosecutors of the various international criminal tribunals at the Chautauqua Institution. The initiative was organized by Case Western Reserve Law Professor Michael Scharf, who is Managing Director of the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG); and David Crane, former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, who is a member of PILPG’s Board.

The members of the blue ribbon panel believe the time is particularly ripe for this initiative.  According to Scharf: “It can help the Syrian opposition demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law, ensure that accountability plays an appropriate role in peace negotiations, put Syrian officials and military commanders on all sides on notice of potential criminal liability, and lay the groundwork for justice rather than revenge in the immediate aftermath of transition.”  Crane adds, “It is a useful framework for not only the Syrians but regional and international organizations to assist in the creation of an appropriate justice mechanism.”

The proposed Extraordinary (or Special) Tribunal for Syria is not supposed to replace any ICC cases (if the Syria situation were to be referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council), but it is recognised that the ICC will only be able prosecute a limited number of (high-ranking) persons and that the number of alleged crimes committed and perpetrators calls for an hybrid (SCSL or STL-style) tribunal. The proposed draft Statute (which will officially be presented on 3 October) can be found here.

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