Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) has proposed a solution to the use of chemical weapons in Syria that does not involve the United States bombing the country — the investigation and prosecution of those crimes against humanity.
Smith, New Jersey’s longest serving congressman and a well regarded champion of human rights, introduced a Concurrent Resolution last week that, if passed by both the House and Senate, would direct President Obama to work with the United Nations to set up a tribunal to investigate war crimes war crimes committed by the Syrian government and the rebel groups waging a civil war in the county.
In a interview with The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer, Smith, who has previously worked on war crimes tribunals involving Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and Rwanda, criticizes the Obama targeting “20 year-olds who might be on an air force base” rather the actual perpetrators of use of sarin gas against the Syria people, be it the Assad regime or the rebels.
A tribunal would be a non-lethal alternative to a bombing campaign — which no one knows how long it will last. During the House hearing [on Wednesday], I asked Secretary Kerry: How do you define “limited”? How do you define “short duration”? And he didn’t answer. There’s no sense that bombing will end this war. No one is even remotely suggesting that. And I’m equally concerned about a strike where there are consequences that have or haven’t been anticipated that could occur.
Smith said the tribunal should convene immediately and that there in no need to wait for the end of the Syrian civil war.
Smith said that he asked Secretary of State John Kerry at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee if the Obama administration had proof that the chemical weapons were deployed by the Assad regime. Kerry wouldn’t answer.
Smith said that he anticipated that Russia, China and the rest of the world community would support an investigative prosecutorial tribunal.
Read Smith’s interview with Plumer here.