CWRU Law Professor Helps Plan Tribunal to Prosecute Perpetrators of Atrocities in Syria

Michael Scharf and others describe a plan to lay the groundwork for justice

News Release: Thursday, Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Blue Ribbon panel of former international tribunal prosecutors, international tribunal judges and leading academics, led by Case Western Reserve University Law Professor Michael Scharf and David Crane, former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, will present a blueprint for a tribunal to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities in Syria.

The panel’s “Statute for a Syrian Extraordinary Tribunal to Prosecute Atrocity Crimes” will be discussed in Washington, D.C., at The National Press Club, 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3.
Speakers include Scharf, Crane, and possibly members of Congress. The event will be moderated by Paul Williams, president of the Public International Law & Policy Group.

The government of Syria has admitted possessing chemical weapons. The United Nations has confirmed that use of chemical weapons in Syria has resulted in over 1,400 people killed during August near Damascus. A plan for ridding Syria of chemical weapons is being negotiated at the United Nations Security Council.

But those actions also raise questions about holding the perpetrators accountable for violating the Geneva Conventions and the 1925 Chemical Weapons Treaty, panel members have determined.

“The members of the Blue Ribbon Panel believe the time is particularly ripe for this initiative,” Scharf said. “It can help the Syrian opposition demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law, ensure that accountability plays an appropriate role in peace negotiations, put Syrian officials and military commanders on all sides on notice of potential criminal liability, and lay the groundwork for justice rather than revenge in the immediate aftermath of transition.”

The National Press Club program is free and open to the press and public. Congressional hearings are possible soon to consider U.S. Rep. Chris Smith’s concurrent resolution on establishing accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria. Smith (R-New Jersey) recommends establishing an international tribunal to prosecute top Syrian figures. The blue ribbon panel’s draft statute recommends an internationalized domestic tribunal to prosecute the culpable civilian and military leaders.

The proposal to establish a Syria tribunal reflects insights gained from a series of meetings and workshops over the past two years led by the Public International Law & Policy Group, an NGO (non-governmental organization) co-founded by Scharf and Williams, which brought together Syrian lawyers, jurists and civil society leaders with international experts to discuss transitional justice in Syria. “It also reflects comments received from the distinguished members of our expert drafting committee,” Scharf said.

The Public International Law and Policy Group recently posted the Syria Tribunal Statute. Here is a link:

Reporters and editors note:
Michael Scharf is available at (216) 534-7796 (cell).
David Crane is available at (571) 331-5361 (cell).

The members of the Blue Ribbon Panel are:
M. Cherif Bassiouni, Emeritus Professor of Law at DePaul University, and former Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the United Nations Diplomatic Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court
David Crane, Professor, Syracuse University College of Law and former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone

Sir Desmond de Silva, QC, former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone

Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association

Justice Richard Goldstone, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda

Larry Johnson, Adjunct Professor at Columbia Law School, former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs who drafted the Statutes for the Yugoslavia Tribunal, the Cambodia Tribunal, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Gregory Noone, Director of the Fairmont State University National Security and Intelligence Program and Assistant Professor of Political Science and Law, and former head of the International Law Branch in the International and Operational Law Division at the Pentagon

Michael Newton, Professor, Vanderbilt University Law School, and former Deputy to the Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, U.S. Department of State

William Schabas, Professor, Middlesex University Faculty of Law, and former Member of the International Truth Commission for Sierra Leone

Michael Scharf, Associate Dean, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Managing Director of the Public International Law & Policy Group, and former Attorney-Adviser for United Nations Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Paul Williams, President of the Public International Law & Policy Group and Rebecca Grazier Professor of Law and International Relations, American University

In addition the following experts provided comments on the draft Statute but have asked to be listed as “contributors” rather than members because of their official positions:

David Scheffer, Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law, U.N. Special Expert on United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, and former US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues.

Judge Patricia Wald, former Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Posted by: Marvin Kropko, September 26, 2013 08:50 PM | News Topics: Official Release