Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who has announced that he will vote against authorizing President Obama’s plans for military strikes in Syria, will instead introduce a resolution to create a Syrian War Crimes Tribunal
as an alternative.
“There is a compelling, moral imperative to immediately establish a comprehensive way to hold accountable all those on either side, including Assad, who have slaughtered and raped in Syria
,” Smith said.
“Those guilty of war crimes, genocide and other atrocities—whether committed by members of the Syrian government or the rebels—must be investigated and brought to justice
Smith, who has championed human rights in Congress, said “a Syrian War Crimes Tribunal is a nonlethal alternative to missiles and bombs that carry huge risks of killing or maiming innocent civilians and exacerbating the conflict—all while putting American servicemembers at risk.
“Establishment of a court has to be immediate, and a comprehensive collection of evidence must begin now
,” he said. “Unlike air strikes, a war crime tribunal neither indirectly assists jihadist forces in Syria, nor does it foster anger against Christian and other communities in Syria
Smith pointed out that previous specialized international tribunals have been successful in holding accountable those who perpetrate such crimes.
“We have learned lessons from the Special Court in Sierra Leone, we have learned lessons from the Rwandan court and certainly we have learned lessons from the court in Yugoslavia
,” Smith said.
At a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday, Smith questioned Secretary of State John Kerry about the Administration’s weak record on human rights, especially and including in Syria. Smith pointed to a September 3rd New York Times
editorial that said it was “alarming” that President Obama did not “long ago put into place, with our allies and partners, a plan for international action.”
The NYT’s use of the word “alarming” underscored how the Obama Administration “failed over the course over the last several years to do what ought to have been done. That’s a New York Times editorial—hardly a conservative newspaper
,” said Smith at the hearing yesterday.
In June Smith chaired a hearing on human rights abuses in Syria entitled “Religious Minorities in Syria: Caught in the Middle,” Click here to read the witnesses statements, or to watch the hearing.