explosion in Syria Gokhan Sahin | Stringer via getty images

Naming Names in Syria

Even if it is not possible at the moment to create a war crimes tribunal for Syria, a more limited form of accountability can be sought. The names of those responsible for war crimes and human rights violations should be made public.

NEW YORK – Human rights reports make for depressing reading. Filled with accounts of cruelty, they can inspire despair for the human condition. But while I have read many such reports over the years, I cannot recall one as packed with horror as the one recently published by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

The commission, established in 2011 by the United Nations Human Rights Council, was denied access to Syria; it based its findings on 415 interviews, supplemented by photographs, video recordings, satellite images, and medical records. The crimes it documents include severe harm to civilians by Russian airstrikes in support of the Syrian government, the “targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, and transport,” and “continued, deliberate, and indiscriminate attacks on schools.”

The authors also found that the Islamic State had destroyed Syrian cultural heritage sites and sexually enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and girls, and that the Syrian government and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, had carried out systematic attacks on Sunnis, the country’s largest religious community, and used sieges to starve civilians.

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