Syrian Culpability for “Crimes Against Humanity”

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Like a handful of other states in the Middle East, Syria has experienced significant domestic political turmoil in recent months, with a sizable and seemingly increasing percentage of its population openly protesting against the autocratic government of Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government has responded with a crackdown comprised of some of the most violent and repressive tactics seen anywhere since the start of the Arab Spring several months ago. In a report issued yesterday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations described this crackdown as a systematic campaign of murder, torture, deprivation of liberty, and persecution that spans from March to July 2011. The report, which is based on a series of field investigations conducted by the Office of the High Commissioner, concludes that the Syrian government’s conduct “may amount to crimes against humanity” under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The report seems to raise three questions for most readers: First, what is a “crime against humanity”? Second, how might the Syrian government have engaged in such conduct? And third, what consequences, if any, follow from culpability? Continue reading “Syrian Culpability for “Crimes Against Humanity””