Massacre in Houla: Isn’t it Time for Concrete Action? – By Nadine Tewfik-Saad

31 May

How much “pressure” will international leaders apply before they take concrete action? Tuesday’s announcement that Syrian ambassadors were being expelled from Britain, France, Australia, Germany and other Western nations in response to the Massacre in Houla certainly broke headlines, but did it shock members of the Assad regime into taking notice?

Over the past year, the UN, EU and US have imposed an impressive array of sanctions and have repeatedly threatened to apply “increasing amounts of pressure” should the regime fail to comply with Security Council guidelines, but pressure has accomplished nothing. The incident in Houla serves as further evidence that the Syrian government is not taking the UN seriously.

It is still unknown whether or not the Assad regime was directly involved in last week’s massacre. Fingers are being pointed at the Shabiha, an unofficial force that have allegedly been involved in numerous attacks in coordination with government forces. Regardless of whether or not Bashar Al-Assad ordered the attack, the incident is a dire warning. The Syrian crisis is getting out of hand and it is time for someone to start taking action now.

Indeed, military action is not the solution to every problem and Syria is certainly not Libya, but action can be taken in the form of justice. The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights has repeatedly recommended that the case of Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court. Why has this referral not yet taken place? After 15 months of conflict, why have the estimated 12,000-15,000 deaths not been accounted for? Why is it that the murder of one person in the United Kingdom can result in a life sentence, but those who have facilitated the murder of thousands across Syria cannot be brought to justice?

Justice is imposed not only for the sake of punishing a crime, but to ensure that a crime is not repeated. With the rapidly changing political landscape in the Middle East, can the international community risk sending a message that not all crimes against humanity will result in punishment?

Despite the severely disturbing images that have emerged over the past few days, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister insisted on Wednesday that “a review now by the Security Council of any new measures on the situation would be premature.” According to him, a statement “is a strong enough signal to the Syrian parties.”

Western hesitation to go against the positions of Russia, China and Iran is understandable, but is it worth compromising on the responsibility to protect endangered lives in order to appease those countries?

On Tuesday, Kofi Annan stated, “The time is coming, sooner rather than later, when the international community will need to make an assessment as to how things are going and what further action or activities may be necessary”, but the time to make assessments may have already passed. If we do not begin to take concrete action soon, it may very well become too late.

Image: Reuters

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