Elihu D. Richter
Elihu D. Richter

Statement in light of the April 4 sarin gas attack in Idlib, Syria and the recent bombing of Shayrat airbase

No More Immunity and Impunity for Assad’s Barbarism

On March 23rd, The Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention presented a paper at the UNESCO 12th World Conference on BIOETHICS, MEDICAL ETHICS & HEALTH LAW  entitled Corruptio Optima Pessima (The Corruption of the Best is the Worst) in which we reviewed the failures of the major world powers and the United Nations to intervene and stop mass murder and atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad’s Ba’ath regime in Syria. At that time, we called upon the bioethics community and world powers to intervene through whatever means necessary to put an end to immunity and impunity for the Syrian regime’s blatant crimes against humanity.

The latest Sarin nerve gas attack carried out in Idlib province on April 4 by the Syrian Air Force has so far resulted in the deaths of at least 86 people and injury of at least 500 more. We should not overlook the more horrible fact that since the US-Russian agreement in September 2013, which required Assad to remove and destroy all chemical weapon stockpiles from Syria, the toll of violent deaths from all causes in Syria has escalated from 110,000 to what is now believed to be over 500,000. It is clear to all that the world’s powers have completely failed to stop Assad’s genocidal barbarism.

The United States’ failure in 2013 to follow through on enforcing a so-called “red-line” clearly emboldened Syria and its enablers and protectors, notably Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, as they realized they would not be called to account. The world’s inaction, until now, has resulted in an environment of immunity and impunity for the perpetrators of evil.

The US bombing of Shayrat airbase in Homs on April 7 marked the first military intervention by world powers since the beginning of the war in Syria. It was a targeted and proportional response to the gassing attack on April 4 by the Syrian regime. This is an important step in calling perpetrators to account and reestablishing a zero-tolerance stance on the use of chemical weapons. But it is not enough.

The US-Russian agreement was successful in removing a reported 97% of Syria’s declared chemical weapons. The remaining stockpile was still enough to cause enormous damage. The issue isn’t just total eradication, but enforcing zero tolerance for any CBW use whatsoever and demanding accountability for crimes against humanity. There is a need to follow through by whatever means necessary to immobilize the Syrian Air Force and make it impossible to carry out further indiscriminate bombing attacks on the Syrian population.

There is a need to take this even further, to establish the principles of accountability, punishment and deterrence for all crimes against humanity committed by Assad and his regime, which have resulted in the murder of over 500,000 Syrians, enormous suffering and forced expulsion. Therefore, we at the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention call upon the world powers and the UN to take action using the tools of international criminal law to investigate, indict, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of these crimes. We endorse the call of Britain, France and the United States to obtain any information pertaining to the flight logs, flight plans and names of all senior commanders over air operations within the Syrian Air Force. The world must take action to immediately put an end to the atmosphere of immunity and impunity by prosecuting perpetrators and enablers according to the precedent of the Nuremburg Trials.  Remember, the number of people who died from gas poisoning is a tiny percentage of the total numbers killed. It is not enough to stop here. To do so would be an exercise in tokenism.

Too many lives have been lost due to inaction and temporizing. Further inaction could imply a degree of complicity on the part of the bystanders. We must recognize that we are dealing with evil at its worst: Corruptio Optima Pessima (the corruption of the best is the worst).

The above was co-authored by Elihu D. Richter and Casey Tait, of the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention

About the Author
Dr. Elihu D Richter is a founder of the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention
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