Crane outlined five "possibilities for a justice mechanism" that could be used in Syria: the International Criminal Court; an ad hoc court created by the United Nations; a regional court authorized by a treaty with a regional body; an internationalized domestic court; or a domestic court comprised of Syrian nationals within a Syrian justice system.
He added that he believes the International Criminal Court is "just not up to the task" of handling a Syrian war crimes tribunal, and that a local, domestic system would be preferable as it would help Syria "transition to a sustainable peace."
Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program for Human Rights Watch, agreed that trials should be held to assure justice for the human rights offenses committed, but argued that a trial should take place within the already-existing International Criminal Court rather than through an ad hoc court that must be created and regulated.
Alan White, an investigator for the U.N.'s Sierra Leone court, asserted that "an immediate alternative needs to be aggressively pursued," but warned that conducting a war crimes tribunal "is one of the most challenging, if not the most difficult and demanding type of investigation within the international justice system."
For the tribunal's success, he said, witnesses must be protected, and the court should be focused on assuring justice for the victims, not on political accountability to the international community.
Stephen Rademaker of the Bipartisan Policy Center noted that he is typically a critic of war crimes tribunals, but acknowledged that "there are several unique features to the Syrian conflict" that may merit the creation of a tribunal, namely the "humanitarian catastrophe in Syria" and the international community's "moral obligation to try to address it."
He stressed that a tribunal would help bring to justice human rights offenders on both sides of the civil war, and the public accountability of a trial would help to dissuade future humanitarian offenses. In addition, the tribunal would delegitimize the Assad regime, and "reinforce diplomatic efforts to remove Assad from power."
The Syrian conflict has now dragged on for 30 months, since demonstrations sprang up nationwide in March 2011 protesting the rule of al-Assad.
In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters. Since then, the violence has morphed into a civil war which has claimed the lives of more than 115,000 people.
There are at least 2.1 million Syrian refugees in nearby countries, most of them in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.
An additional 4.5 million Syrian people are believed to have been internally displaced by the war.
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