The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Foreign Fighters Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law Committed in the Territory of the Syrian Arab Republic since 2011

96 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2019

Date Written: March 11, 2019

Abstract

The Syrian Civil War is an interesting case in geopolitics if one looks at the evolution of foreign fighters. What began as a demonstration in a southern village of Syria transformed into one of the most devastating conflicts of the twenty-first century. The war brought new challenges to the world as a consequence of this now almost decade-long civil war. Myriad challenges are all too apparent: refugees, terrorism, and reconstruction, among them.

The focus of this thesis is on foreign fighters, which I define as those involved in foreign terrorist organizations who continually challenge international law. Prior to the Syrian civil war, foreign fighters did not have extensive support. That came only with the temporary successes of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other radical extremists during their zenith from 2014 to 2016. Today, the problem that needs to be resolved worldwide is how to handle the return of every foreign fighter as they return to their original homes. No corner of the globe is exempt since recruitment of these foreign fighters reached throughout six continents. Thousands of men and women joined ISIS, and now many will return home following the failure of the self-proclaimed caliphate.

ISIS declared its caliphate in 2014, but even before then it used horrendous tactics to recruit new members and seize territory and power; indeed, other Islamic extremist groups pursued similar activities. Many of the crimes committed during the Syrian civil war—rape, massacre, ethnic cleansing, and genocide—were carried out by members recruited into these groups.

That begs the questions: Will the world bring justice to the victims of this war? Can anything be done? If there is no court to hold accountable these violators of international law and international human rights, what recourse is there for holding these fighters accountable for actions that have ravaged and prolonged a conflict resulting in millions of displaced people and more than a half a million dead?

This thesis aims to answer the following question: What is the most viable option for holding foreign fighters accountable when it is determined that they violated international law during the Syrian civil war? My research suggests that a new international tribunal is required, one that can hold foreign fighters in the Syrian civil war accountable for their actions. Most domestic laws stop short, deciding instead to charge a foreign fighter with membership in a terrorism organization when he/she attempts to return home. Many entities and governments point to international courts as the most viable option for rendering judgment. However, I identify several hurdles in that path, which I discuss. In sum, my research efforts lead me to a more viable approach: establishing an international tribunal through the United National Security Council. To this end, I offer specific suggestions to bring this realistic option to fruition.

Suggested Citation

Dahabreh, Peter, The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Foreign Fighters Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law Committed in the Territory of the Syrian Arab Republic since 2011 (March 11, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3350683 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3350683

Peter Dahabreh (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

MA
United States

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