Those planning, executing proxy wars should be treated as war criminals

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A destroyed area in Aleppo, Syria - Photograph: Foreign and Commonwealth Office - Flickr, OGL/Wikimedia

The culprits behind these conflicts should be held accountable in the International Criminal Court, says Ronald Benjamin.

It is heart-breaking to see the city of Aleppo of Syria, which is part of world heritage and a place of great religious civilisations, being destroyed and its people suffering.

From the start of the war in 2011 to the daily news now coming out of Syria, the complexity of the conflict would be apparent to the observer. On one side is the Syrian regime, aided by Russia through air power, with Iranian and Hezbollah working on the ground; and on the other, the United States, Saudi Arabia siding with the rebels in their failed attempt to toppled the Assad regime.

Isil, it should be noted, was allegedly initially supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Apparently, everything goes, as long as as President Assad is toppled in this brutal war, which had its origins in Iraq.

According to a UN commission of inquiry, there is evidence that all parties to the conflict committed war crimes, including murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance. All these powers should be held accountable – if it can be proven by objective and conclusive evidence – for crimes against humanity.

The city of Aleppo has now been liberated from the clutch of so-called ‘moderate’ rebels and their extreme allies believed to have been supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia. It is obvious that a proxy war has ruined
Syria and destabilised the whole of West Asia. Its impact has reached the shores of Europe and Asia.

What was a peaceful and legitimate citizens’ uprising against the Assad regime ended up being manipulated by hegemonic powers and regional powers who sent arms and mercenaries to Syria to topple the sitting government to ensure regional and hegemonic dominance.

The victims were thousands of ordinary people who have been deprived of life, hope and liberty, besides having to endure the death of their love ones and destruction of their homeland.

This brings into question the role of the International Criminal Court, which was set up by the Rome Statute to address and prosecute war criminals and aggressors. As it stands, the dominant powers such as the United States, Russia, Iran and China have not acceded to the Rome Statute, which has made the court an ineffective tribunal for crimes committed during proxy wars.

It seems that the court has been designed to handle cases of atrocities by national regimes towards their own people. The court should instead provide a comprehensive framework to prosecute International criminals who invade or use proxies to destabilise governments, creating a context for civil war by supplying arms and ammunition.

In this process of proxy wars, millions of common citizens are killed in the cross fire. Currently, the families of citizens who are killed have no recourse to justice because the big powers have not acceded to international law, the Rome Statute as reflected in the formation of International criminal court of justice.

It is time the parliamentarians for global action (PGA) who lately had their consultative assembly on the International Criminal Court in West Africa have more of such conference in the land of the big powers such as the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The common citizens of this countries should be made aware of the roles that their governments play in supplying arms to friendly regimes and proxies – which benefit big arms manufacturers, resulting in the massacre of innocent men, women and children. This would be in line with the PGA’s support for improved regulation of the international arms trade.

Unless proxy wars are exposed by global members of Parliament, who are willing to take the superpowers to task for their criminal activities, they will not be able to influence other Third World countries to accede to the Rome Statute.

With the current poor economic growth that has affected the West, there will be more proxy wars since the big powers would want to save the cost of their own military adventures. Some of them will look for ways to supply arms to terrorists in others countries to topple their home governments. The violence in Syria and Yemen and the conflicts in Latin America in the 1980s bear testimony to this.

President Dwight D Eisenhower, who was the President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, once called proxy wars the cheapest insurance in the world.

Proxy wars should be regarded as war crimes, and those who plan and execute such wars should be held accountable in the International Criminal Court. Unless this happens, the court would only reflect lopsided justice where power play determines justice.

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