All the red lines : the Syrian conflict and its assault on international humanitarian law
The Syrian war : between justice and political reality
Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2020
The Syrian war's most fundamental characteristic is the systematic disregard for the most basic rule of international law - and notably international humanitarian law - displayed by its belligerents. The result has been unparalleled human suffering, the scale, complexity, and severity of which are yet to be fully understood. International humanitarian law was established to protect civilians and those participating in hostilities from unnecessary suffering. In Syria, however, inflicting suffering on civilians and hors de combat fighters has been consistently documented as a deliberate strategy of various warring parties to punish individuals and communities for their refusal to submit. This chapter looks briefly at the unrest that preceded the conflict before focusing on those violations of international humanitarian law which quickly became hallmarks of the Syrian war. It will give particular focus to the use of chemical weapons on the battlefield and the investigations to determine the perpetrator(s). Finally, it asks whether the Syrian conflict represents a nadir in the international community's response to a war where international humanitarian law is breached with impunity and, if so, whether the value of the law of wars is being eroded.