Interview with David Scheffer : The Red Line

The first US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues on the question of accountability in Syria.

President Obama said that he has spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them. Has the administration the will to push for military actions against the Assad regime?
I think the option is still on the table. This is a risk the Obama administration has decided it is prepared to take to stand firm against this threat to humanity, essentially against the use of chemical weapons. A likely scenario could be a Security Council resolution that sets forth a procedure for disarmament, which, should Syria not comply, entitles UN member states to "use all necessary means" to enforce the resolution or promise "serious consequences" for non-performance.

Will the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria be held accountable for their deeds beyond weapons inspections?
I firmly believe that someday those individuals should be held accountable under the law, including for other atrocity crimes in Syria. The Security Council could leverage justice for peace by requiring that unless Syria fully cooperates with the disarmament procedures there will be an automatic referral of their use of chemical weapons to the International Criminal Court. Russia should be able to agree to that because it has pledged Syrian cooperation and claims it is the rebels who launched the attack.

What can Germany contribute?
Firstly, Germany can lend its voice in support of what President Obama is seeking to achieve in the talks with the Russians. Secondly, as a NATO member, Germany can stand very firm in defense of NATO principles, including article five of the Washington Treaty, the collective self-defense provision of NATO members, and thus of Turkey. Third, Germany is already demonstrating its commitment to the humanitarian catastrophe by accepting significant numbers of refugees. There's never a shortage of what can be done to support the refugee camps in the region itself.

Will the Syrian regime survive this crisis, maybe even with Assad as president?
The more interesting question is whether Bashar al-Assad's future dictates living in exile or ultimately facing the bar of justice in Den Haag.
David Scheffer is Professor of Law, and Director, Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University

Interview conducted by Malte Mau

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