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Tag Archive: Syria

The General Assembly & Accountability for International Crimes

Further to Alex Whiting’s post on Russian objections to the U.N. General Assembly’s formation of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 (IIIM), it is worth noting that the General Assembly has played a role in prior accountability efforts since its inception after World War II.…   continue »

Russia Maintains Objection to General Assembly’s Mechanism for Syria


On 21 December 2016, the General Assembly (GA) adopted Resolution 71/248, creating a new body to collect evidence of international crimes in Syria (formally known as “the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011,” and in shorthand known as “the IIIM” or “the Mechanism”).…   continue »

Comparing: The Leaked Draft vs Final Executive Order Barring Citizens of 7 Muslim-Majority Nations and All Refugees

On Friday, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order implementing new immigration policies, which he stated are designed to “keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America.” Most consequentially, the order:

  • creates a 90-day entry ban on nationals of seven majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen;
  • provides for indefinite extension of the entry ban on nationals from any of those seven countries if their government is unable to provide adequate information to assess whether applicants are a security or public-safety threat;
  • halts the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely;
  • prohibits all refugee admissions into the United States for 120 days;
  • on the resumption of the refugee admissions, prioritizes refugees fleeing religious-based persecution if the individual is a member of a minority religion in his or her country of nationality (e.g., Christians in a Muslim-majority nation);
  • establishes a program to collect and publish information about “terrorism-related activity” and “major offenses” allegedly committed by foreign nationals in the United States

The President’s action on Friday follows two days of speculation since an earlier draft version of the order was leaked to the press.…   continue »

Trump’s “Safe Areas” in Syria — An Explainer on International Law

In an interview on Wednesday with ABC, President Donald Trump said he would “absolutely do safe zones in Syria.” The leaked draft of the Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” directs the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense, to “produce a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement, such as repatriation or potential third-country resettlement.  continue »

Understanding Complicity: When the US Makes a “Substantial Contribution” to War Crimes Committed by Foreign Partners

With power comes responsibility. In their new duties, Trump administration officials will need to consider the legal hazards associated with supporting foreign military partners who commit international crimes. Perhaps most alarming to some officials will be the risk of personal criminal liability.…   continue »

How News Media Can Get Misled by Tough Talk on Killing Terrorists

Image: US airstrike with 2,000lb bombs on ISIS bank in Mosul, Jan. 11, 2016 – CENTCOM

Less than a half hour after Donald Trump took the oath of office on Friday, ABC News ran a report by James Gordon Meek and Brian Ross headlined “Trump May Have Early Chance to Target ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi.”  A reader could be forgiven for assuming that the story was about an intelligence breakthrough in the hunt for the notoriously elusive chief of America’s top terrorist adversary.  …   continue »

The Troubling Application of the Political Question Doctrine to Congressional Force Authorizations

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Nov. 21 dismissed the suit brought by U.S. Army Captain Nathan Michael Smith challenging the legality of the military campaign against ISIS under Operation Inherent Resolve. The opinion by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejecting the suit on political question grounds is troubling.…   continue »

Five (Overlooked) Decision Points for the Trump Administration in National Security

What are the decision points that the President-elect’s transition team and incoming administration will likely face over the horizon in the national security arena? News media and commentators have highlighted issues that now dominate headlines including: relations with Russia, Israeli settlements, the Iran nuclear deal, torture, Syria and ISIL strategy, North Korea’s nuclear program, and freedom of the press.…   continue »

Frontline’s ‘Exodus’ Individualizes a Global Crisis

Every year around Christmastime, a few million Americans sit down and watch the original version of “The Sound of Music,” starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, when it airs on tv. I thought of the movie’s final scene — the von Trapp family’s climbing over the Austrian Alps to escape the Nazis — while I was watching an advance screener of  Frontline’s latest documentary, “Exodus,” about today’s global refugee crisis.  continue »