International court would have ‘strong case’ against Assad

Kathleen Harris – CBC News Nov 10,2012

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could be indicted by the International Criminal Court with an arrest warrant carried out by NATO forces, says the ICC’s former chief prosecutor.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the international community could adopt an “innovative” approach to stop the bloodshed in Syria by using the army to execute an arrest warrant without a military operation underway.

“There’s no reason for Assad to leave power today – he trusts himself he’ll win the combat there,” Moreno-Ocampo told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics. “But if he understands the international community is together, enforcing a court decision and sending troops to arrest him – not to do a war or bombing, [but] o arrest him, preparing an arrest operation … that would make a difference. That could be a breakthrough in the Syria situation.”

Moreno-Ocampo, whose nine-year term as the international court’s lead prosecutor ended in June, told guest host Hannah Thibedeau the plan would be an “experiment” that would require consensus – and China, Russia and South Africa feel “cheated” after the Libya mission. The initial plan was strictly to protect civilians, yet it evolved to one that promoted “regime change” under western leaders U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, he said.

“That was the end – Russia became furious. Libya at the end was a good solution – but something happened there that is affecting Syria,” Moreno-Ocampo said, explaining why China and Russia have blocked resolutions by the United Nations Security Council on Syria.

A defiant Assad appeared on Russia Today television this week, insisting he would never leave the country or resign.

“I’m not a puppet. I wasn’t made by the West to live in the West or any other country. I’m Syrian … I’m made in Syria, and I have to live in Syria and die in Syria,” he said. 

That came just days after Cameron suggested Assad could be granted safe passage out of the country if it would end the prolonged and bloody civil war. More than 36,000 people have been killed in the violence.

Moreno-Ocampo said Cameron’s suggestion would not undermine a potential war crimes case – and said there is a “strong case” for prosecution.

“We have to respect innocence, but I think you have a good case to prosecute him because he’s the chief commander of the country and, as you say, there are thousands of civilians who were killed in bombing operations, so there could be a strong case,” he said.