Alexander Mezyaev
Syria 360°

A diplomatic war against Syria is waged along with ongoing military operation. A new attack took place on September 18 at the United Nations Human Rights Council session where hearings on the report of the United Nations Investigation Commission on Syria were held. First, the document admits that «sporadic clashes between the armed actors evolved into continuous combat, involving more brutal tactics and new military capabilities on both sides». The Commission of inquiry determined a fact of great significance from legal point of view. That is «the intensity and duration of the conflict, combined with the increased organizational capabilities of anti- Government armed groups, had met the legal threshold for a non-international armed conflict» (1). This conclusion implies that international humanitarian law is given priority over the Syrian national legislation. That is the Commission shies away from admitting the coalition of world military and economic powers is involved in funding the Syrian war by stressing the fact the conflict is non – international. It’s clear enough without comments whose interests are served by these conclusions.

The other major finding of the Commission is the fact that that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Government forces and the Shabiha have committed the crimes against humanity of murder and of torture, as well as war crimes. The report confirms the previous finding that violations were committed pursuant to State policy: «Large-scale operations conducted in different governorates, their similar modus operandi, their complexity and integrated military-security apparatus indicate the involvement at the highest levels of the armed and security forces and the Government». The information provided by the Government indicated that, as at 9 July 2012, 7,928 people, including Government forces and civilians, had been killed as a result of the unrest (paragraph 38). Nevertheless, the report makes no difference between civilians and combatants (paragraph 40). It’s worth to note the Commission affirms that «anti-Government armed groups had the unintended effect of increasing the support of local populations for those groups» (paragraph 23). It abstains from providing any evidence confirming this assertion.

The Commission’s findings concerning the belligerents make one wonder. First, the Commission puts the major part of the blame on Shabiha, the people’s militia. It says it was «established» that the Shabiha fighters were responsible for many crimes described in the report. At the same it’s impossible to understand what the Shabiha is. The report says there is no clear picture of what its nature, composition and organizational structure are like. The Commission puts the blame on all other pro-government forces though conceding the «Their precise nature, strength and relationship with the Government remains unclear…» (paragraph 24). Second, to some extent the situation with anti-government forces became clearer. For instance, the report notes anti-Government armed groups have expanded their activities throughout the country, clashing with Government forces on multiple fronts simultaneously. «Accounts indicated that there were foreign fighters in the ranks of some armed groups» – that is the most important admission made by the Commission (paragraph 26). Besides the Commission acknowledges that several radical Islamic armed groups have emerged in the country. There is a number of radical Islamist armed groups operating in Syria. The most important is the Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, a group allegedly linked with Al-Qaida, which claimed responsibility for several attacks, including suicide bombings against Government forces and senior officials (paragraph 30).

It’s important to note that all investigations and conclusions have been done by the Commission… in abstentia. None of its members even stepped into the Syrian territory. The question arises what methods of gathering information and making assessments the Commission resorted to? It insists the information was received «at first hand». How come? As it happened it used Skype and phone connections! Totally 1062 men were questioned. What a surprising figure if one takes into account the «international» media hysterical reports saying hundreds of thousand Syrians have left the country (2). It is surprising that the Commission limited the questioning to phone conversations with just one hundredth of the alleged victims number. Moreover, it appears a bit strange (especially on the part of Investigation Commission) to maintain that phone conversations could be considered as the sources of firsthand information.

The most serious accusation on the part of the Commission was the «establishment» of the fact that the government forces and Shabiha militia were responsible for Al-Houla massacre. The report concluded that the Government was responsible for the deaths of civilians as a result of shelling the Al-Houla area and, particularly, Taldou village. It also found that the Government‘s investigation fell short of international human rights standards. With regard to the deliberate killing of civilians, the commission was unable to determine the identity of the perpetrators. Nevertheless, it considered that forces loyal to the Government were likely to have been responsible for many of the deaths (paragraph 41). How did it make such findings? As it happened «the Commission conducted eight additional interviews, including with six witnesses from the Taldou area, two of whom were survivors. It examined other materials, including video recordings and satellite imagery. It also reviewed analyses from other sources. No matter a number of witnesses confirmed the government version of events, the Commission judged their accounts as unreliable owing to a number of inconsistencies at the time accounts of other witnesses interviewed by different investigators remained consistent, including those collected from children (paragraph 44).

Talking about the credibility of the information in general the Commission based its findings on «reasonable grounds to believe». While assessing the report one should agree there are reasonable grounds to believe the document is far from meeting the high criteria standards adequate in the case an international investigation of serious armed conflict is conducted.

It’s not the first time a new round of diplomatic fight against Syria simultaneously becomes a new round of anti-Russian campaign. A campaign launched a few months ago by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to transfer the «Syrian issue» to the International Criminal Court is already supported by a number of states. At the session of UN Human Rights Council it received the approval of Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Honduras, Ireland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, the Maldives, Chili and Austria. Still, as we have mentioned, it’s the campaign against Russia we’re talking about because it’s impossible to transfer the situation to the International Criminal Court without its consent. Only the United Nations Security Council has the authority to transfer a case to the International Criminal Court if it is related to a state that is non-party to the Court’s Statute. The regime of global governance is required to make legal an attack against Syria and demonize Russia at the same time. The demand to transfer the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court ideally meets the both goals.


(1)Reference: Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, // United Nations Document: A/HRC/21/50.
(2) According to the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Turkey has received 42682 Syrian refugees, Jordan – 34050, Lebanon – 29986. Iraq – 7490. (Reference: UNHCR, Syria Regional Refugee Response, It’s interesting to note the statistics data is cited in the report itself (reference: paragraph 33).