Don’t expect justice for Syrian war criminals

Every once in a while the world wakes up to the fact that one of the greatest human-rights catastrophes ever is still going on in Syria. The Syrian civil war has been raging since 2011, and in that time 500,000 Syrians have been killed, while approximately half of the country’s pre-war population of 22 million have been made homeless or driven into exile. While the world obsesses over other conflicts — in particular the one going on next door between Israel and the Palestinians, which over several decades hasn’t produced a fraction of the suffering that has taken place in Syria in just the last seven years — the slaughter in Syria continues without most of the international community paying much attention.

Over the past week, as the forces of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad have closed in on one of the remaining rebel strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus, the vicious shelling of civilian targets has become more conspicuous, which is no small feat in a war that foreign correspondents are generally unable to cover. While casualties are inevitable in any war, the mayhem being carried out by the Assad regime and its Iranian, Hezbollah, and Russian allies is deliberately and avowedly aimed at killing civilians and anyone trying to help them. As the New York Times editorial column noted on Thursday, this indiscriminate murder fits the classic definition of a war crime. But the wait for justice for those carrying out these crimes as well as those who are enabling them may be long.