Dutch government holds Syrian Baath regime accountable under international law for “gross human rights violations”

THE HAGUE – The Dutch government through Foreign Affairs Minister Stef Blok has announced its intention to hold the Syrian Arab Republic accountable for human rights violations and is prepared to open a case at the International Criminal Court in The Hague against the Syrian Baath regime headed since the year 2000 by Bashar al-Assad.

According to the Dutch government there is more than enough evidence that Syria has committed “widespread gross human rights violations against Syrians” and that “large numbers of Syrians have been tortured, murdered, forcibly disappeared, and subjected to poison-gas attacks, or have lost everything fleeing for their lives.” Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok issued a statement stating that ‘the Assad regime has committed horrific crimes time after time. The evidence is overwhelming. There must be consequences.’

The Dutch government informed Syria about their decision by diplomatic note. The diplomatic route now is that the Netherlands and Syria first enter into negotiations to solve their dispute and, if unresolved, the Netherlands can propose to submit the case to arbitration. If no agreement is reached between the Netherlands and Syria on this issue, the Netherlands intends to submit the case and evidence to the United Nation International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Negotiations won’t happen as the Syrian Baath regime has already replied and rebuked the Dutch government as expressed by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs the “Government of the Netherlands is the last one who has the right to talk about the Human rights” and said it “reserves the right” to respond by taking the Netherlands to court for funding armed rebel groups in Syria. Syria accuses the Netherlands of having supported terrorist organizations active in Syria and that it persists to “use the International court of Justice in The Hague to serve the agendas of its political American master and use it as a platform to exceed the UN and International law.”

This year the U.S. began implementing a series of sanctions, referred to as Caesar’s Law, according to which financial restrictions can be imposed on individuals, entities, and allies related to the Syrian regime in Damascus. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his wife Asma al-Assad and their son are among those sanctioned.

According to the United Nations, the UN Human Rights Council investigates all violations of international law since March 2011 through the Independent International Commission of Inquiry.

On its website the UN says that, “Syria has witnessed unprecedented devastation and displacement. More than 5 million Syrians have fled the country and 6 million are internally displaced. With more than 13 million people in need of assistance, the conflict has caused untold suffering for Syrian men, women and children.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres in February 2020 remarked to the press; “the message is clear: There is no military solution for the Syrian crisis. The only possible solution remains political. This man-made humanitarian nightmare for the long-suffering Syrian people must stop. It must stop now.”

Earlier international attempts to refer the gross violations of human rights in Syria to the International Criminal Court were vetoed in the UN Security Council, of which Russia is part. After the popular uprising started in 2011, Russia increased its backing for the Syrian Baath regime and fully stepped in with its military from 2015 onward. Russia wanted to prevent a full breakdown of the state and regime change as happened in Libya. Russia is reluctant to change the status-quo Baath regime as it has a long-time relation with Syria, has military bases in the country, and creates a foothold for Russia in the Middle East.

The Netherlands as host country of the International Criminal Court has a legal and humanitarian reputation to uphold. Under its own laws, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide committed in foreign countries can be prosecuted under universal jurisdiction if a suspect lives in the Netherlands.

The Ba’ath party has ruled Syria since 1963 and has Arabism as its main ideology. Although Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez has several times explicitly and publicly stated that Syria is in the Syriacs name, the state has refused to officially recognize Syriacs as a distinct people with an own ethnic identity. Syriacs were seen and treated well as indigenous to Syria but merely so in a religious capacity; they can be Christians, but not Syriacs.

Since the 2011 uprising, just like all other peoples. Syriacs in Syria have suffered much from the disastrous civil war. And Syriacs have been victims of the Baath regime. This is confirmed by the European Syriac Union Netherlands and the Syriac Union Party. In a statement of support sent to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, the two Syriac representative organizations stated that they fully supported the Dutch government’s position against the Syrian Regime.

In their statement of support, the European Syriac Union Netherlands and Syriac Union party said that Syriacs were also subjected to torture, murder, and forcible disappearances.

The Vice President of the Syriac Union Party Said Malke, an outspoken advocate of political, ethnic and cultural rights for Syriacs in Syria was arrested on 18 August 2013, at Zalin (Qamishli) Airport by Syrian intelligence services after which he was transferred to Daramsuq (Damascus) and has not been seen or heard of since. Repeated requests by the Syriac Union Party and his family about his whereabouts and situation remain unanswered today by the Syrian Baath Regime.

In April 2013, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Hanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Bulos Yazji were kidnapped in the Aleppo countryside by an unknown party. The Syrian Baath regime has been mentioned as one of the possible perpetrators of this crime. No word has been received since from the two religious leaders. Their fate unknown.