|"A fighter from the Free Syrian Army, walks on the rubble of a damaged house at the front line in Hich village on Jan. 22, 2013." (Reuters)|
By David Petrasek
The Globe and Mail, January 23, 2013
"In the past week, amidst the crisis in Mali and the hostage crisis at the gas plant in southern Algeria, the world's attention shifted away from the continuing bloodshed in Syria. This perhaps explains how the Canadian media missed what appears to be a major, and disturbing, shift in our policy towards Syria. Last week, Canada declined to join with dozens of other countries -- and almost all our major allies -- in supporting a call on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Despite all the energy Foreign Minister John Baird has devoted to denouncing the violence in Syria and the Assad regime's culpability for massacres and the targeting of civilians, Canada refused to endorse a major international effort to hold Mr. Assad and his regime accountable. Only in the past few days, the BBC's Lyse Doucet provided first-hand and gripping evidence of a massacre of up to 100 civilians in Haswiya, on the outskirts of Homs. In recent weeks, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that the death toll in the conflict since it began almost two years ago is much higher than previously reported, and that at least 60,000 people have been killed.
Against this background, a group of countries led by Switzerland undertook a new initiative to spur Security Council action. As Syria has not ratified the ICC statute, the Court cannot investigate war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria unless expressly authorized to do so by the UN Security Council. [...] While not quite wishful thinking, the proposal is unlikely to succeed. Because the vote to refer Libya to the ICC (a vote that Russia and China backed) was quickly followed by the vote to authorize a NATO intervention in Libya, both countries say they fear the same sequence in Syria (although, of course, with their vetoes they could block such a move). Nevertheless, even if it fails to win Security Council support, the Swiss initiative sends an important signal to all those in command of both regime and opposition forces in Syria. Almost all of Canada's allies and EU Member States signed the letter, including Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Scandinavian countries -- in total almost 60 countries. What explains Canada’s absence on the list of supporting countries? No statement was forthcoming from the Foreign Minister. No international criticism arose either -- although given the diminished role Canada has played in recent years at the UN, this is perhaps less surprising; our allies have stopped noticing our inaction. [...]"