While addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on its latest report, on 17 March the Chairperson of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Paulo Pinheiro, affirmed that a path to justice could be found “through a Security Council referral [of the situation in Syria] to the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.
On the other hand, that same day Carla Del Ponte, one of the commissioners (and the former Chief Prosecutor of the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunals), sponsored the establishment of an ad hoc Tribunal, since it “could be more efficient and work faster (…), be based near the region, facilitating access of witnesses, documentation and so on” and – last but not least – could be supported even by Russian Federation.
In the following days, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told a UNSC meeting that Islamic State militants must be prosecuted and that “it is essential that the Security Council refer the matter to the International Criminal Court”.
These statements have stoked up the debate on the effectiveness of international judicial mechanisms in prosecuting ISIS militants, which was almost blowing out in the last months (among others, see Beth Van Schaack on Just Security, Carsten Stahn on EJIL: Talk! and Mark Kersten on Justice in Conflict).
Even if at this stage, considering the escalation of ISIS’ assaults and the effects of the ongoing Syrian NIAC, an overwhelming majority of the international audience would applaud at any (?) international justice scenario, in order to better achieve the purpose of efficiently fighting extremists’ impunity, any such initiative should be placed under careful scrutiny before being endorsed by the international community. That is why in the following, brief analysis I’ll not only look into the ICC referral’s, but also into the other available mechanisms’ main pros and cons, in order to prosecute the international crimes allegedly committed in Syria and Iraq.