Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) proposed [“Create a war crimes court on Syria,” Washington Forum, Sept. 13] that the U.N. Security Council move immediately to establish an ad hoc Syrian war crimes tribunal. I agree that those who have committed horrific acts of brutality in Syria must be held accountable.
I would note, however, that the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established some 10 years ago to punish perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and, by its mere existence, to help to prevent such acts. The world should therefore throw all of its support behind the ICC. This is a relatively young institution and, to be successful, it needs as broad a membership as possible and, in the case of nonmembers, the mandate of the Security Council.
We should press the Security Council to refer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as any members of the opposition who commit war crimes, to the ICC for possible prosecution. More than 50 countries, including mine, have already done so. Last, but not least, the United States might give a thought to joining the ICC and thus strengthening it.