Justice will catch up with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad even if he remains in power under a negotiated end to Syria’s war, U.N. human rights investigator Carla del Ponte said on Monday.
“Assad is the president, so let’s deal with the institution of president. If we can achieve a ceasefire with the president, why not? But afterwards, justice will come,” del Ponte told reporters.
“You remember in former Yugoslavia, Milosevic was president, and it was a peace negotiation at Dayton and they achieved an agreement? And Milosevic was still president, but justice prevailed. Just an example from the past.”
Del Ponte was chief prosecutor for the international court which put former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic on trial in 2002, seven years after he signed a peace treaty to end the war in the former Yugoslavia. Milosevic died in his cell in 2006, before his trial was concluded.
Asked if she thought justice would catch up with Assad, Del Ponte said: “Yes. It must be done.”
Del Ponte is a member of the U.N. independent commission of inquiry that has been investigating human rights abuses in Syria for four years, and which has drawn up five confidential lists of names of suspects.
The immediate priority was to end the war, Del Ponte said, but she hoped an ad hoc tribunal like the courts set up to try crimes committed in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda could also be established for Syria.
The court would need to be established by the U.N. Security Council, which means it would run the risk of being blocked by China or Russia, two permanent members of the Security Council that have frequently vetoed U.N. resolutions critical of Assad.
Del Ponte said the thousands of Syrian refugees who had entered Europe would “accelerate the solution” because European states were confronted with a problem that they need to solve immediately.
“It is a great pressure because of the cost, the expense. Politically it’s important.”
Vice-President of the Syrian Coalition Hisham Marwa said “that Assad is now effectively outside power in Syria and is leading an armed outlawed militia. His survival in power is therefore internationally unacceptable as a war criminal involved in crimes against humanity and cannot remain a president,” during an interview with Al-Aan TV channel.
Marwa pointed out that the international courts have specific lists of names of regime officials involved in crimes against humanity, such as the mass torture of detainees in Assad’s prisons which was revealed by the former regime police photographer code-named Caesar.
Marwa added that the Assad regime’s crimes have met all the conditions qualifying them to be regarded as full crimes, as the announcement of a specific rights group that it intends to prosecute the criminals means they are able to bring these criminals to international courts.” (Source: Syrian Coalition + Reuters)