Blue Ribbon Panel of Experts to Unveil Draft Statute for Syrian Tribunal on October 3, 8:30-9:30 AM, at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

(Note that 7 of the Blue Ribbon panel members proposing the new Syria Tribunal are AIDP members!!)

Event open to the Press and Public

The government of Syria has admitted possessing chemical weapons; the United Nations has confirmed that their use killed more than 1,400 people in the outskirts of Damascus last month; and an international process for ridding the country of such weapons has just commenced. But what about holding the perpetrators accountable for violating the Geneva Conventions and the 1925 Chemical Weapons Treaty?

A blue ribbon panel of former international tribunal chief prosecutors, international judges, and leading experts has prepared a Draft Statute for a Syrian Extraordinary Tribunal to Prosecute Atrocity Crimes.  It’s being called the “Chautauqua Blueprint” because it was finalized on the margins of a recent conference of several of the chief prosecutors of the various international criminal tribunals at the Chautauqua Institution. The initiative was organized by Case Western Reserve Law Professor Michael Scharf, who is Managing Director of the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG); and David Crane, former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, who is a member of PILPG’s Board.

The members of the blue ribbon panel believe the time is particularly ripe for this initiative.  According to Scharf: “It can help the Syrian opposition demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law, ensure that accountability plays an appropriate role in peace negotiations, put Syrian officials and military commanders on all sides on notice of potential criminal liability, and lay the groundwork for justice rather than revenge in the immediate aftermath of transition.”  Crane adds, “It is a useful framework for not only the Syrians but regional and international organizations to assist in the creation of an appropriate justice mechanism.”

The Chautauqua Blueprint will be publicly unveiled and discussed at a special event at the National Press Club, 8:30-9:30 AM, on October 3.  A preview copy of the document is available at  Speakers will include Scharf, Crane, members of congress, and other experts.  Paul Williams, President of the Public International Law & Policy Group, will chair the event, which is open to the press and public.  Breakfast will be provided.

The National Press Club breakfast event precedes Congressional hearings scheduled to consider Congressman Chris Smith’s Concurrent Resolution #51 on establishing accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.   Congressman Smith’s resolution recommends establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute top figures.  The Chautauqua Blueprint recommends an “internationalized domestic tribunal” as a complement or alternative to an international tribunal.

The Chautauqua Blueprint reflects insights gained from a series of meetings and workshops over the past two years led by the Public International Law & Policy Group, which brought together Syrian lawyers, jurists, and civil society leaders with international experts to discuss an approach to transitional justice uniquely tailored to Syria.  It also reflects comments received from the distinguished members of the Blue Ribbon expert drafting committee whose names and affiliations are listed below.

The Blue Ribbon Panel consists of: 

  • M. Cherif Bassiouni, Emeritus Professor of Law at DePaul University, who chaired the Drafting Committee at the United Nations Diplomatic Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court
  • David Crane, Professor, Syracuse University College of Law, who was the first Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone
  • Sir Desmond de Silva, QC, former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone
  • Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association
  • Justice Richard Goldstone, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda
  • Larry Johnson, Adjunct Professor at Columbia Law School, former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs who drafted the Statutes for the Yugoslavia Tribunal, the Cambodia Tribunal, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
  • Gregory Noone, Director of the Fairmont State University National Security and Intelligence Program and Assistant Professor of Political Science and Law, and former head of the International Law Branch in the International and Operational Law Division at the Pentagon  
  • Michael Newton, Professor, Vanderbilt University Law School, and former Deputy to the Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, U.S. Department of State
  • William Schabas, Professor, Middlesex University Faculty of Law, and former Member of the International Truth Commission for Sierra Leone
  • Michael Scharf, Associate Dean, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Managing Director of the Public International Law & Policy Group, and former Attorney-Adviser for United Nations Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  • Paul Williams, President of the Public International Law & Policy Group and Rebecca Grazier Professor of Law and International Relations, American University 

In addition the following experts provided comments on the draft Statute but have asked to be listed as “contributors” rather than members because of their official positions: 

  • David Scheffer, Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law, U.N. Special Expert on United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, and former US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues.
  • Judge Patricia Wald, former Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.