Is there still time for Assad to walk away?
by: SETF staff
Today the International Criminal Court took action against Gaddafi and his cronies for crimes against humanity. For months Gaddafi was given the chance to listen to his people but he instead chose to murder and bomb them in an attempt to destroy their moral and hopes for freedom. Hopefully the charges will come to fruition and with Gaddafi finally gone Libya can move forward toward a free and sovereign nation. But for many this is just the beginning, especially in Syria where the military and security forces continue to carry out the policy of oppression and violence against civilians.
When the ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo gave his speech outlining the crimes against humanity committed by the Libyan leader, the description of the charges mirror what we see going on in Syria. Moreno-Ocampo said of Gaddafi “His forces attacked Libyan civilians in their homes and in the public space, repressed demonstrations with live ammunition, used heavy artillery against participants in funeral processions, and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after the prayers.” Eyewitness accounts have described the same thing happening in the cities across Syria.
Daraa is the clearest example of all the tactics in the Syrian government’s arsenal of brutality implemented against a relatively small city. The people of Daraa are not wealthy but clearly determined as the birthplace of the Syrian movement for reform. The attempts to quell dissent started the same as in Libya with live ammunition used against unarmed protesters in the streets. But the situation in recent weeks has gone beyond what we saw in Libya. The military lockdown of Daraa included isolation, shutdown of basic water and electric services and eventual shelling by tanks of most of the city. To this day eyewitnesses in Daraa describe the military patrolling the streets and the stationing of tanks at different mosques throughout the city.
The situations in Libya and Syria are unique in many ways because the demographics, geography, economy, politics, and military are very different, but the governments of both Libya and Syria are clearly guilty of crimes against humanity. Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo made it clear that the charges against Gaddafi will also “have a deterrent impact for other leaders who are thinking of using violence to gain or retain power.” Now Bashar Assad must heed this warning, in the interest of the people and the future of Syria, he must cease the violence and fulfill his decade old promise for reforms. As a family man he also must have some incentive to leave knowing now that if he does not step away from the violence his prosecution for the crimes being committed in his country will be inevitable. If Bashar truly loves his country perhaps there could be time for him to leave Syria in one piece and assist the International Community in making the aspirations of the people a reality and bring the situation in Syria to a peaceful conclusion. There is still time to save himself and his family if he will heed the warning from the ICC now, but time is quickly running out.