Is Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad Guilty of War Crimes?
The images from Houla in Syria had a sickening familiarity: bodies wrapped in white shrouds, lined up in a large pit in the center of town while grieving relatives cried and wailed. In all, a reported 108 people, all victims of last week’s Houla massacre, were being buried, 49 of them children.
The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights’ representative has said only about 20 of the victims were killed by artillery or mortar fire. The rest had been shot in what appear to have been summary executions. Syria has denied its forces had anything to do with the massacre and says the killings were the work of “terrorists.”
The ditch reminded the world of others it has seen - in Nazi Germany, in the former Yugoslavia, in Cambodia, in Vietnam, in Libya and Iraq. In many cases, the atrocities committed there were ruled war crimes. But is what happened in Houla a war crime? If it is, how can Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and others be held accountable?