Syrian non-governmental organisations and lawyers Tuesday formally asked the International Criminal Court for a “preliminary analysis” of what they described as “crimes” committed in their country.
“We ask the prosecutor to lead a preliminary analysis of the crimes committed by the Syrian regime,” said Yaser Tabbara, a lawyer and member of the US-based Muslim civil rights organisation CAIR.
Tabbara was part of a delegation which travelled to The Hague to drop off a message at the prosecutor’s office.
More than 1,100 Syrian civilians have been killed by the Syrian regime since protests started in the country in March, Tabbara added, saying “murders and tortures, that is, crimes against humanity,” have been committed.
“We have well and truly received the communication,” Florence Olara, spokeswoman for the ICC prosecutor’s office, told AFP.
“Now we have to see whether we have the jurisdiction on those crimes, which would be surprising, since Syria is not a State party to the Rome Statute,” the ICC’s founding treaty.
About 50 Syrians living in The Netherlands on Tuesday gathered before the ICC office, an AFP journalist saw.
The protesters, some carrying Syrian flags on their backs, demanded and end to violence in their home country as well as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s arrest: “We want Bashar in The Hague now!” and ” Stop the butcher!” read some of their placards.
“The goal of our move here in front of the ICC is to put pressure on the regime,” said Kawa Rashid, 38.
“If the prosecutor leads a preliminary analysis, the pressure will be there,” he added.
Since Friday, at least 40 people have been killed in Syria, including 35 in a security sweep in Jisr al-Shughur, which was a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s and borders Turkey, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
But Syria’s opposition movement keeps swelling despite the regime’s repressive measures which have left more than 1,100 people dead, according to rights groups, and sparked worldwide condemnation and sanctions against key regime figures, including the president.
Established in 2002, the ICC is the world’s first permanent, treaty-based court set up to try those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide if the accused’s own country cannot or will not do so.