H.E. Minister of Foreign Affairs Sabah Al-Khalid al-Hamad al-Sabah
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Dear Foreign Minister:
We write to request that your government support an initiative led by Switzerland calling on the United Nations (UN) Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The letter, delivered by Switzerland on January 14, 2013, points to a record of severe human rights violations in Syria with no prospect of justice at the local level, and appeals to the Security Council to therefore take up the issue of accountability. It is time Kuwait joins the over 50 nations, including Tunisia and Libya, that have supported this call and signal to all sides in Syria that the days of absolute impunity for these severe human rights violations are at an end.
As you know, serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law have been committed in Syria. The Syrian government continues to conduct indiscriminate air and artillery strikes on residential areas, and to arbitrarily detain, torture, and execute civilians. Human Rights Watch has concluded that government forces have committed crimes against humanity and repeatedly called for an end to these violations. We have also documented and condemned serious abuses including kidnapping, torture, and extrajudicial executions by opposition forces.
The humanitarian situation in Syria is dire. A preliminary analysis carried out by data specialists on behalf of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights suggests that over 60,000 persons have been killed in Syria. Approximately two million people are internally displaced and over 700,000 are seeking refuge in camps and other arrangements in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Egypt.
Kuwait has supported efforts to help galvanize attention and action on the situation in Syria, recently voting in favor of an August 2012 General Assembly resolution, supported by 133 states, which stressed the importance of holding those responsible for human rights violations in Syria to account, and encouraged the Security Council to consider appropriate measures in this regard. We also understand that in March 2012, the Kuwaiti National Assembly issued a number of recommendations on Syria, including supporting the ICC’s involvement.
However, we understand that Kuwait has yet to sign the letter spearheaded by Switzerland calling on the Security Council to act concretely and refer Syria to the ICC. Kuwait’s support of this initiative would send an important message on how the Security Council should be reacting to the deteriorating situation in Syria. We believe that broad support including from states in the region could contribute to generating greater pressure on those in positions of authority in Syria to halt the violence. Indeed, the threat of serious criminal prosecution would send a powerful deterrence message to those most responsible for the atrocities there.
Human Rights Watch believes that strong Security Council action is overdue, including the referral of Syria to the ICC. We urge your government to urgently associate itself with Switzerland's initiative. While the international community has underlined the need for accountability, there has been no action to make this a reality. Ongoing delay of any concrete action has devastating consequences for the Syrian people who continue to suffer human rights abuses on a daily basis. The stakes are extremely high for the victims of atrocities in Syria and for global efforts to curtail impunity for the most serious crimes.
Director, International Justice Program
Sarah Leah Whitson
Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division