What in heaven’s name should we do about Syria? Commentators are pretty unanimous in arguing for a “sitting on our hands” operation. And the politicians have followed suit.
The case against intervention is slanted. The hand-sitters point to Iraq and Afghanistan, where those very brave soldiers died last week.
Anyone with a minimum knowledge of British history would have known that we always leave Afghanistan with our tail between our legs. However, against this, we should pose our Libyan experience.
How the Libyan story will pan out is still anyone’s guess. But we did help overthrow a terrible regime. So what of Syria? I have not seen any polls on voters’ views, but I would be very surprised if there is not widespread support for a bombing policy very much like the one we conducted against Gaddafi.
There is also terrible silence from politicians and government alike on one strategy that I believe could make a difference to what is going on in Syria which would not endanger a single service person’s life.
Slowly, over time, countries are agreeing that, through international law, the idea of war crimes should be pursued through the International Criminal Court. Much of the Nazi regime was tried on this principle.
Why there has not been a referral to the ICC on the murderous regime in Syria remains a mystery to me.
This would have a sobering effect on Damascus. Not only on the leadership, but also on those lower down the hierarchy who are part of Assad’s killing troops.
They will realise that they can no longer act with impunity. There are a number of ways by which the ICC can take action. Any government can make a referral, but this requires the named country to have ratified the treaty. While Syria has signed it, Syria has yet to ratify it.
It might just be possible to argue that, by signing the treaty, Syria signed up to a model of behaviour they have cruelly flouted since. Syria might call on the “law” to defend itself, but the lesson would not be lost: just possibly Syrian regime members may stand trial in The Hague which could affect their actions.
I have therefore written today to the Chief ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, asking him to commence an investigation along these lines.
However, a failsafe mode of referral would be for the UN Security Council to request the ICC to take action: this does not require Syria to have ratified the treaty.
The Government should call a Special Security Council meeting to initiate such an action.
Yet our government and others, too, remain silent. So here is where you can help.
Today, I am tabling an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the Commons asking the Government to make that referral to the Security Council. Please lobby your MP to sign the EDM.
However, I have also placed a petition on the Government’s website.
This will be much more effective in steering the Government’s hand, as it is direct democracy in action.
The petition can be accessed here: epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31068