The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday collectively passed resolutions on establishing an international tribunal that trials Bashar al-Assad for the war crimes committed against the people of Syria and that condemns minorities’ genocides in Syria. The bill also indicts ISIS for crimes the terrorist organization perpetrated.
The first resolution accuses Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, namely Russia and Iran, of committing war crimes against Syrian civilians. It declares that “the vast majority of the civilians who have died in the Syrian conflict have been killed by the government of Syria and its allies, specifically the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Iran’s terrorist proxies including Hezbollah.”
The war crimes resolution calls on President Barack Obama to direct his U.N. ambassador to support the formation of an international war crimes tribunal to bring to court anyone guilty of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.
It says the Syrian government has “engaged in widespread torture and rape, employed starvation as a weapon of war and massacred civilians, including through the use of chemical weapons, cluster munitions and barrel bombs.”
Moreover, Nato commander Philip Breedlove blamed Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, in support of autocratic leader Bashar al-Assad, for having “wildly exacerbated the problem”.
According to Breedlove, the Kremlin and Assad intend to use migration as a weapon to weaken European unity and infrastructure. He said that European nationalist groups that oppose immigration also weaken the continent, and could threaten violence. Russian and Assad regime airstrikes mean to intimidate Syrians and get them on the road, he said
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican, said the establishment of an international tribunal would prove to the Syrian people that they are not alone. About 425,000 Syrians have been killed, and four million others are living in exile.
The war crimes resolution says Russia has not only enabled Assad but also “has committed its own violations of international law by leading deliberate bombing campaigns on civilian targets including bakeries, hospitals, markets and schools.”
The committee also passed a second resolution, which voices Congressional consensus that the slaughters committed by ISIS against Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minorities constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The resolution already has 200 Republican and Democratic co-sponsors.
A number of lawmakers from both parties have joined with religious freedom and human rights advocates to demand that the State Department label ISIS’s crimes as genocide.
Secretary of State John Kerry came under pressure from Republican lawmakers to declare ISIS guilty of genocide. Kerry expressed revolt at the slaughter of innocents but said the State Department has to carefully review the legal standards that constitute genocide.
Lawmakers point to the killings of thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq, starting in 2014. In most cases, ISIS fighters kill the men and take women and girls as slaves. Some lawmakers are demanding that it also be recognized that ISIS propaganda calls for the targeting of Christians, and they cite the brutal beheadings by ISIS of Christians from Ethiopia and Egypt. Congress gave Kerry until March 17 to make a determination declaring ISIS acts against religious minority’s genocide.