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Syrians wearing face masks walk past billboards with messages about the coronavirus in Damascus on April 1. (Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images)

“You can’t expect your torturer to care about your health.” This simple truism was told to me by torture victim Omar Alshogre, who spent more than three years in the worst of the Bashar al-Assad regime’s dungeons, beginning when he was 15 years old. But if the tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Assad’s prisons catch the coronavirus, this contagious and potentially deadly disease will surely spread to their jailers. The only way the jailers can save themselves is by releasing their victims now.

As of Wednesday, the Syrian government had reported only 19 cases of the coronavirus in the entire country, including two deaths.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rebel fighters walk amid rubble in the village of Nayrab, southeast of the city of Idlib in northwestern Syria, on March 7. (Omar Haj Kadour/AFP via Getty Images)

I am a Syrian American, and I have an urgent message. You do not have the full story on Syria. The truth will shake you to the bone.

The president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, is committing genocide.

Assad has deliberately erased at least 200,000 Syrian civilians from existence. Most of them died for the “crime” of sharing the same ethnicity, religion and neighborhood as pro-democracy protesters. It is true that the overwhelming majority of these victims come from a single ethno-religious group (Sunni Arabs), but this is not about religion. This is about a dictator who is willing to gas children to stay in power.…  Seguir leyendo »

Si l’instabilité climatique représente l’une des menaces les plus importantes pour l’avenir de notre humanité, cette considération est principalement basée sur le fait que nous vivons sur une terre dont les éléments de survie (climat, ressources naturelles, etc.) sont interconnectés et leurs souffrances sont «transmissibles» à travers les continents, peu importent les distances. En tant que médecin, il m’est difficile de ne pas faire valoir la notion de la souffrance comme «un signal d’alarme» qui doit être pris au sérieux pour sauver l’ensemble du corps. Une évidence de la responsabilité partagée et indivisible qui fait des accords de Kyoto un espoir pour les générations à venir.…  Seguir leyendo »

En Idlib se está desarrollando un nuevo desastre humanitario, uno de los peores de la crisis siria que, en casi una década, ha causado demasiados desastres para llevar la cuenta. El régimen sirio continúa su estrategia de reconquistar militarmente el país a cualquier precio, sin consideración hacia las consecuencias para los civiles sirios. Desde diciembre, sus operaciones en la zona noroeste han aumentado de intensidad, contando con el respaldo de la aviación rusa. Los incesantes ataques aéreos y el bombardeo con bombas de barril han obligado a casi un millón de sirios a huir en apenas unas semanas. Las infraestructuras de asistencia están saturadas.…  Seguir leyendo »

A toddler looks at members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces while waiting to be searched, after leaving the Islamic State's last holdout of Baghouz, in the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province on Friday. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

Eight years after the onset of the civil war, international justice has done little for Syria, but Syria has done a lot for international justice. Strategic accountability efforts are yielding important results. Sweden, France, and especially Germany are at the forefront of investigating and prosecuting Syrian perpetrators of international crimes. These states are flexing their ability to use universal jurisdiction, whereby perpetrators of international crimes can be prosecuted in these states irrespective of their citizenship or where their crimes were committed.

In addition to the modest number of prosecutions in Europe, there have been a handful of other important developments in the pursuit of accountability for atrocities committed in Syria.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lucas Jackson/Reuters A woman looking at images of dead bodies taken in Syria by the former military police photographer “Caesar,” at an exhibition held at the United Nations headquarters, New York City, March 10, 2015

The following photographs contain disturbing content. They show people whom Human Rights Watch understands to have died in the custody of the Syrian government, either in detention facilities or after being transferred to a military hospital.

—The Editors

The war in Syria is an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe; it represents, too, the greatest political failure of the past decade—one that historians might well come to regard as the shame of our generation, for Westerners and Middle Easterners alike. Despite its savagery, the war has been extensively—though, critics say, ineffectively—documented in still photographs, videos, films, and on cellphones. This criticism rests on a misunderstanding of the relationship between photography and politics—a relationship that has been romanticized since Robert Capa and his comrades went to Spain, and that led to some of Susan Sontag’s sharpest insights in On Photography.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Trump administration is declaring victory after striking three Syrian government chemical weapons sites. But the White House hasn’t learned the lessons of last year’s “pinprick” strikes on the Assad regime. Unless some sort of accountability is imposed on the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter of his own people in the cruelest and most illegal of ways is sure to continue apace.

“Mission Accomplished!” Trump tweeted this morning, praising what he called a “perfectly executed strike” on the Assad regime conducted jointly with the French and British militaries. Tactically, it did seem successful enough. Syria’s oft-exaggerated air defense capabilities turned out to be impotent.…  Seguir leyendo »

2017 will mark the sixth anniversary of the Syrian conflict -- a war that has left nearly half a million dead and forced millions of others from their homes.

The new year brought a ceasefire brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey. But the ceasefire is serving as cover for "business as usual." The Syrian government continues to use illegal means of war to crush political opponents and citizens, forcing them to accept an uncertain and unjust "peace." But peace achieved by these means cannot, and will not, hold.

This should come as no surprise. Fundamental flaws arebaked into this agreement. Major parties to the conflict did not sign on to the ceasefire.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Syrian man makes his way through the rubble of destroyed buildings as he heads to his house in Aleppo’s Dahret Awad neighborhood on Dec. 17 after pro-government forces retook the area from rebel fighters. (Youssef Karwashan/AFP/Getty Images)

For all the talk of justice for mass atrocities in Syria and myriad mechanisms aimed at forcing the international community to bring Syrian war criminals to account, the world has very little to show. But several recent developments at the United Nations General Assembly could lay the foundation for the day when justice in Syria becomes possible.

With the leadership of small and middle powers such as Lichtenstein and Canada, the U.N. General Assembly achieved something historic and unprecedented on Dec. 21: It voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution creating “the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Depuis des semaines, les commentaires médiatiques et politiques annoncent, à leur manière, le sacrifice inéluctable de la population d’Alep, martyrisée depuis cinq ans.

Aux victimes syriennes depuis 2012, et notamment à celles d’Alep, affamées et torturées sous un déluge de feu depuis la mi-novembre, peu importe de savoir si ce que le pouvoir de Bachar Al-Assad leur fait subir est un génocide, un crime contre l’humanité ou un crime de guerre. C’est la même barbarie, les mêmes meurtres et terreurs, les mêmes pilonnages d’hôpitaux, les mêmes bombes incendiaires, largages de barils d’explosifs sur les habitations ou attaques au chlore – la fameuse ligne rouge à prétendument ne pas franchir, dixit Barack Obama – qui les anéantissent.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man carries a child as he flees deeper into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo, Syria. Photograph: Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

I was a teenager when I faced the worst of humanity. I remember our house burning to the ground and my family fleeing Srebrenica, hoping against hope for a chance to live. I remember the torture, and the smell of blood. I didn’t know it yet, but I was living through the worst genocide in Europe since the second world war. And afterwards, I remember the promises of “never again”.

Those promises are being broken, hour after hour, day after day, in the deepening horror of east Aleppo. More than 500,000 people have died since war began in 2011. Imagine it.…  Seguir leyendo »

White Helmets search for victims amid the rubble of a destroyed building in Aleppo. Photo by Getty Images.

In May 2014 an attempt to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) was vetoed by Russia and China. Since then, war crimes and crimes against humanity have escalated.

Civilians have been bombarded by chemical weapons, cluster munitions, incendiary devices and barrel bombs. Cities have been starved in medieval sieges, doctors and hospitals systematically attacked, food convoys obliterated or obstructed, and courageous rescuers like the Syrian ‘White Helmets’ deliberately killed. Thousands have been tortured or enslaved.

As one Free Syrian Army fighter said, inside Syria ‘it is like the apocalypse, the end of days’. It also feels like the last gasp of international humanitarian law and a return to a more primitive law of unbridled necessity.…  Seguir leyendo »

Syrians walked through the rubble of Aleppo on Wednesday, after air strikes in the northern part of the city. Credit Ameer Alhalbi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Earlier this month, a health center in Aleppo, Syria, run by Qatar Red Crescent was struck by bombs dropped from a helicopter. Two patients were killed, eight others were wounded and half the facility was destroyed. Qatar was forced to close the center. Dr. Hashem Darwish, the head of the health program at the Qatar Red Crescent’s mission in Turkey, called the attack a war crime.

This was the very phrase the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, used a few days earlier to describe the escalating violence deployed by the Syrian government and its allies. “Those using ever more destructive weapons know exactly what they are doing,” said Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

En 2015, dans la nuit du 2 au 3 octobre, l’hôpital de Médecins sans frontières (MSF) à Kunduz, en Afghanistan, était bombardé par les forces américaines. Quarante-deux malades et soignants ont péri dans cette attaque. Malgré le fait que les Etats-Unis aient endossé la responsabilité de ce qu’ils ont qualifié d’erreur, MSF exigeait une enquête internationale indépendante.

Celle-ci n’a pas eu lieu mais les Etats-Unis ont partiellement déclassifié leur rapport d’enquête interne. Celui-ci reconnaît non pas une, mais une véritable cascade d’erreurs humaines, techniques, procédurales… En évacuant l’hypothèse de l’intentionnalité, ce rapport révèle une réalité tout aussi effrayante. Il nous oblige à examiner les défaillances systémiques de l’interprétation et de l’application du droit humanitaire dans la conduite des hostilités, qui conduisent à la multiplication des attaques d’hôpitaux.…  Seguir leyendo »

Justice may appear to be the least likely survivor of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, but history teaches us that investigations and prosecutions of atrocities like those sweeping through these nations can still be achieved despite political obstacles.

Granted, justice stood still in the U.N. Security Council in late May when Russia and China vetoed a resolution referring to the International Criminal Court the atrocity crimes that have been tearing Syria asunder since March 2011.

But the cruelty in Syria continues to mount. An estimated 160,000 citizens have died and half a million civilians have been wounded, with tens of thousands constantly subjected to shelling and bombings.…  Seguir leyendo »

We don't know their names but we know their numbers, and we can see the evidence of their torture, thanks to a former crime-scene photographer who says he became a reluctant documenter of murder "on an industrial scale" committed by Bashar Assad's regime in Syria.

The photographer, code-named Caesar to protect his identity after his defection from Syria, says he worked in the military police for 13 years documenting crime scenes and accidents. But after the civil war began, Caesar says, Assad's government put his skill-set to a different use: photographing the bodies of detainees who had been killed by the regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

There is a non-lethal way to help ensure that Bashar al-Assad and other perpetrators of atrocities in Syria are held to account not someday far in the future but beginning now.

The U.N. Security Council must move immediately to establish a Syria War Crimes Tribunal. Past ad hoc war crimes tribunals including courts for the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and Rwanda have made a difference, but sent thugs to jail after hostilities ended. A new sense of urgency and commitment requires initiating investigations and prosecutions now in order to send a clear message to those who commit genocide— and all those just following orders — that such barbaric behavior has dire personal consequences.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s the foreign policy doctrine that sounds like a Star Wars droid. It’s the argument that a former supreme commander of NATO, Adm. James Stavridis,thinks could be a basis for military action against Syria. And it’s the idea that Washington Post columnist George Will argues by no means justifies a U.S. strike.

The “responsibility to protect” — known in international-relations circles as R2P — is a straightforward, if often misunderstood, notion: Nations must protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and must take action to help other nations whose governments can’t or won’t protect their peoples.…  Seguir leyendo »

Given the allegations currently being leveled at Syrian President Bashar Assad, readers might be wondering why Assad and his senior commanders have not been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court like leaders such as Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir. After all, the court was specifically set up to “have the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern,” and last month’s chemical attacks certainly fit the bill. A number of NGOs and dozens of countries have called for such a prosecution.

Unfortunately, international law is once again protecting Assad’s violations of international law.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nine-year-old Dia'a sat in the back of his father's car on the cool afternoon when a sniper fired a bullet at his heart. His brother Alaa, 15, was seated next to him. Their father sped through the streets desperate to flee shelling that was destroying their neighborhood in Dara'a, in southwest Syria.

The father saw a roadblock and decided to turn around. It was then that the sniper pulled the trigger.

The bullet pierced Dia'a's chest, missing the boy's heart by millimeters. Then it careened through his left shoulder and ricocheted into Alaa. Dia'a looked to his left and saw his brother slumped over.…  Seguir leyendo »