However, the Iranian regime has also been involved in military operations across Syria via the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Quds Force. Not surprisingly, Iranian leaders have admitted to this, as soldiers from the IRGC, as well as military advisers and trainers are present throughout Syria, and often appear
on the front lines.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist, and leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, writes in his article for the Arab News that, “Regarding the latest bombing and massacre in Ghouta, the Iranian regime even showed its desire to escalate the war and civilian casualties by ignoring the UN ceasefire. Appearing unconcerned with the deaths of civilians, including many women and children, Gen. Mohammed Baqeri, Iran’s military chief of staff, pointed out defiantly that pro-Damascus forces will continue the assault despite the truce, which is aimed at allowing aid access and medical evacuations.”
Because the Iranian regime’s financial, political, military, advisory and intelligence assistance enabled Syria’s leaders to commit such extensive war crimes, the Iranian leaders, as well as the Syrian officials, should be held to account.
One obstacle to this is that, although Iran is a signatory to the ICC’s Rome Statute, the treaty has not yet been ratified, so the ICC requires a referral from the United Nations Security Council.
An alternative would be to create an international committee or tribunal to hold the Iranian leaders accountable. While a tribunal may not be as powerful as the ICC, if it indicted the Iranian leaders responsible for war crimes, steps against them, such as freezing their assets, issuing visa bans against them, and refraining from negotiating with them could be pursued.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh writes, “Senior leaders and IRGC generals have been operating with impunity and must be taken before the International Criminal Court to be held accountable for war crimes.”
Previously, the Arab League called for accountability in Syria, and made a referral to the ICC calling for “fair international trials.” The EU Foreign Affairs Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Syrian National Coalition, along with 64 other countries, supported investigating those who have committed war crimes in Syria.
According to Dr. Rafizadeh, it is worth noting that individual states or international organizations can also utilize the legal concept of “universal jurisdiction.” He writes, “Applying this indicates that, regardless of individual nationality, states or international organizations can claim jurisdiction over state and non-state actors who commit grave breaches of international laws, such as massacres, war crimes and torture.”
Neither peace nor security can occur unless those military generals, politicians, and militia leaders who commit war crimes are brought to justice. Only after the perpetrators have been punished, will there be reconciliation.
“Senior Iranian leaders and IRGC generals, who are directly or indirectly involved in war crimes in Syria, should not be allowed to continue operating with impunity. Bringing them to justice would be the first step toward addressing the Syrian situation. It is incumbent on the ICC, the UN Security Council, the international community and individual states to hold them accountable,” writes Dr. Rafizadeh.