The world’s most powerful preach their new mantra from the comfort of their rooftops – leave no man, woman or child alive. In other news, Syria bleeds.
I’m a millennial in the truest form, and when I wake up, the first thing I do after turning off the fifth consecutive alarm on my phone, is to check the notification bar. For the past six months or so, the name Aleppo has popped up frequently on all my news application alerts. I see headlines with phrases like “tragedy strikes” and “death toll rises” and for the most part, I scroll past them, reluctant to read about the horrors before I’ve had a cup of coffee. It is easier to be in denial and enjoy the pleasant sight of pretty selfies on Instagram, but when the mention of children doesn’t escape my eye, even a much needed Starbucks Frappuccino suddenly feels like a bitter pill to swallow.
The Syrian Civil War has continued for almost six full years, having outlived many Syrian children, 50,000 of whose lives it’s claimed, with a total death toll nearing half a million (Altun, 2016). Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, and his forces, have teamed up with Russia to control the rebel forces in the nation, which would seem logical given Russia’s expertise and strength, EXCEPT, they’re not really able to do that when their targets seem to be schools and hospitals. While anyone would love to believe Russian intelligence is downright inaccurate, it’s difficult to imagine they’ve made the same “mistake” FIVE times (in the last week)!
An official from the US highlighted the targeting of three out of four centers used by emergency volunteer services in Eastern Aleppo (Borger and Shaheen, 2016) , implying it was no coincidence that lifesaving equipment had been destroyed, likely to leave many buried under rubble to remain unsaved until their slow and painful deaths. The Russia-Syria bombing campaign between September 19th and October 18th 2016 has killed 446 civilians, out of which 90 were children. The deliberate targeting of hospitals eventually destroyed the last one, leaving 250,000 people without access to medical care in East Aleppo, and unable to leave, for fear of being killed en route.
The intent to kill civilians during conflict is directly contradictory of the Geneva Convention as of 1977, defined as “legal protection for any person not belonging to armed forces or armed groups”, which includes civilian property (International Committee of the Red Cross, 2016). A question, that at this point seems rhetorical, would be, how has Russia successfully evaded being convicted of these war crimes? The answer, as well as the problem, lies within the international legal system. It can’t hold its own!
Russia signed on to the Rome Statute in 2000, the treaty that went into function in 2002, establishing the International Criminal Court. This was a sign of cooperation, but not total relinquishment of its sovereign ideals, as it never ratified the treaty, thus remaining outside the jurisdiction of the ICC (Walker and Bowcott, 2016). It is ridiculous to plant an intergovernmental organization which is reliant on a signature for “support” to even stand on two legs, and further ratification to act. The ICC seems almost a puppet of the superpowers, having only indicted African dictators since its creation. Imagine a murderer being given the option of whether he would like to be charged with the crime he has so obviously committed. If you can’t picture it, just take a look at Russia’s current situation.
In all this hypocrisy, there is some brutal honesty. Russia withdrew its signature from the Rome Statue last month (Walker and Bowcott, 2016), in possibly the most strategic move of the year (what we millennials call a burn). That coupled with Putin’s veto power in the United Nations Security Council signifies Russia is unable to stop accusations of its role in the horrendous events, but it sure is able to stop prosecution dead it in tracks. Another ‘kill’ for Kremlin!
Selina (Dubai campus)
Altun, F. (2016). What If That War Comes To Your Doorstep. [online] SETA. Available at: http://www.setav.org/en/what-if-that-war-comes-to-your-doorstep/ [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].
Borger, J. and Shaheen, K. (2016). Russia accused of war crimes in Syria at UN security council session. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/25/russia-accused-war-crimes-syria-un-security-council-aleppo [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].
Human Rights Watch. (2016). Russia/Syria: War Crimes in Month of Bombing Aleppo. [online] Available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/01/russia/syria-war-crimes-month-bombing-aleppo [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].
Icrc.org. (2016). Civilians protected under international humanitarian law – ICRC. [online] Available at: https://www.icrc.org/eng/war-and-law/protected-persons/civilians/overview-civilians-protected.htm [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].
Shaheen, K., Graham-Harrison, E. and Chulov, M. (2016). East Aleppo’s last hospital destroyed by airstrikes. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/19/aleppo-hospitals-knocked-out-airstrikes [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].
Walker, S. and Bowcott, O. (2016). Russia withdraws signature from international criminal court statute. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/16/russia-withdraws-signature-from-international-criminal-court-statute [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].