The pro­pos­al made to the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty by the Kurds of Syr­ia to judge ISIS crim­i­nals in front of a spe­cial Tri­bunal where they com­mit­ted their crimes, is not an idle state­ment among oth­ers, but a call to action.

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This pro­pos­al made by the forces who made the deci­sive con­tri­bu­tions to  end the mil­i­tary exis­tence of the Islam­ic State — the FDS, to call them by their name — has raised numer­ous debates and dec­la­ra­tions and pro­duced sev­er­al press arti­cles. Heads of States found them­selves forced to take an ini­tial stand publicly.

Fol­low­ing the non-answers by those States direct­ly con­cerned by the repa­tri­a­tion of arrest­ed Jihadist com­bat­ants, this pro­pos­al now reveals every­one’s embarrassment.

The first demand from the front­line fight­ers against ISIS and the struc­tures of the demo­c­ra­t­ic fed­er­a­tion of North­ern Syr­ia, who despite being offi­cial­ly unrec­og­nized have served as de fac­to inter­locu­tors with the “coali­tion” went unan­swered. It con­sist­ed of a demand that the nation­als from for­eign coun­tries who had joined the Islam­ic State be tak­en in charge by their coun­try of ori­gin. This com­mon sense approach sig­nalled the need for essen­tial dis­cus­sions, and respons­es oth­er than quib­bling and hag­gling over the children.

Giv­en the prob­lem­at­ic sur­vival of local pop­u­la­tions in an ongo­ing state of war, they can no longer be expect­ed to bear the weight of the pris­on­ers from ISIS, and of respon­si­bil­i­ties that go well beyond that of con­cerns for the chil­dren. The threats still issu­ing from the Turk­ish regime to cross the bor­der in order to “anni­hi­late” the YPG increase the urgency of an ade­quate response.

And yet, what pre­vails as a mat­ter of inter­na­tion­al pol­i­cy is a big “to each his own shit”.

Inter­na­tion­al emer­gency mea­sures include makeshift, high risk accom­mo­da­tions for refugees in over­pop­u­lat­ed camps, jam-packed Kur­dish jails, tem­po­rary con­fine­ments, with each “ser­vice” iden­ti­fy­ing its nation­als and tal­ly­ing the dead. In the absence of a true deploy­ment and real coor­di­na­tion, the risk is great that crim­i­nals will escape, and prob­a­bly not the least among them. We can be sure that this so-called high secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy of refus­ing “home­com­ers”, held in high regard by Europe for exam­ple, will rein­force ISIS in the short term. For the time being, it also com­forts those in favor of secu­ri­ty mea­sures and a xeno­pho­bic ingath­er­ing on the Euro­pean continent.

The war“coalition” in Syr­ia was always cir­cum­stan­cial. It was con­stant­ly of vari­able geom­e­try, vari­able poli­cies, vari­able logis­tics, with no future objec­tives for the region oth­er than the inter­ests of one or the oth­er. Faced with this lat­est obsta­cle, all of them grum­ble. There’s noth­ing new in this attitude.

This is why, despite a num­ber of valid legal argu­ments against it, the pro­pos­al of a ded­i­cat­ed Tri­bunal is prob­a­bly the smartest, polit­i­cal­ly speaking.

 But the intel­li­gence of a pro­pos­al in no way guar­an­tees it will be retained or even giv­en due con­sid­er­a­tion. In this case, it may not prove legal­ly accept­able giv­en the cur­rent state of inter­na­tion­al relations.

True, com­ing togeth­er in order to decide on a kind of Nurem­berg for the war in Syr­ia and Irak is a gam­ble. It would call for a dou­bling of all the nego­ti­a­tion tables in Gene­va. Reach­ing an agree­ment on its imple­men­ta­tion and the con­sid­er­a­tions to be exam­ined would already cov­er more than half the ground toward the bases for a future peace nego­ti­a­tion guar­an­teed by the Unit­ed Nations. We may as well move to dreamland…The recent “sum­mits” were Russ­ian, Iran­ian and Turk­ish, with Trump’s sup­port, and gave rise to threats more than to peace proposals.

Reduc­ing the perime­ter of the crimes to those com­mit­ted by ISIS, with all the qual­i­fi­ca­tions one could add to them includ­ing that of geno­cide, would still be an insult to history.

And why couldn’t this Tribunal come to be?

Even if its role is first and fore­most that of pass­ing judg­ment on crim­i­nals, an inter­na­tion­al tri­bunal gives a de fac­tolegal basis to offi­cial history.

One can­not claim that, so far, be it for Ex-Yugoslavia, or in the case of Rwan­da and the glob­al action of the TPI in the Hague, the results have been con­vinc­ing, inde­pen­dent and free of polit­i­cal com­pro­mis­es; in fact they have proven fal­si­fied in some instances. In this con­text, his­to­ri­ans are still free to build what­ev­er accept­able nar­ra­tives they choose. For the vic­tims and sur­vivors of the geno­cide in Rwan­da, local resilience proved more pow­er­ful and oper­a­tional than the deci­sions reached by inter­na­tion­al jus­tice, no mat­ter how nec­es­sary were the lat­ter. For ex-Yugoslavia, few peo­ple remem­ber the extreme dif­fi­cul­ty in set­ting up and financ­ing the Tri­bunal, and the polit­i­cal hur­dles raised in Europe. Judg­ment was ren­dered since, but oth­er than the geno­ci­dal hor­ror, noth­ing was laid bare of the polit­i­cal respon­s­abil­i­ties and their ongo­ing con­se­quences. Nov­els around ex-Yugoslavia, be they right-wing or left-wing inspired, are free to pro­lif­er­ate at will.

In most cas­es obvi­ous­ly, the “jus­tice of men”, even when inspired by the best of inten­tions, rests on the rel­a­tive pow­er of the pro­tag­o­nists, polit­i­cal con­texts and a wish to bury deep in the uncon­scious of his­to­ry the col­lec­tive respon­si­bil­i­ty for the crimes com­mit­ted. How­ev­er, this does not mean such jus­tice must be botched or partial.

In this occur­rence, Trump’s cur­rent neg­a­tive answer at least has the mer­it of clar­i­ty. It rests on both feet. To sum­ma­rize, the first foot is pure­ly finan­cial and logis­ti­cal as such a tri­bunal would slow down the dis­en­gage­ment of his troops, the sec­ond foot aims at keep­ing the lid on the ghosts of the inter­ven­tion in Irak.

As has become its cus­tom in the past few decades, France is being “reserved”. The humor­ous sketch by Coluche to this effect notwith­stand­ing, it is not dif­fi­cult to under­stand that this tri­bunal would require some clar­i­fi­ca­tion in the recur­rent French polit­i­cal con­vo­lu­tions around the ques­tion of Bachar, for exam­ple. More­over, the French Pres­i­dent is in need of seren­i­ty with his secu­ri­ty-con­scious and xeno­pho­bic right wingers, and afflict­ed with a lin­ger­ing “jaun­dice”, as we know.

Hence, the Europe of sov­er­eign nations agrees on one thing “to each his own shit“and weapons will go on find­ing buyers.

One of the slo­gans of yes­ter­year used to say “your wars, our dead”. It was not chant­ed by bleat­ing paci­fists and was even picked up by the inter­na­tion­al­ist fight­ers who joined up with the Kur­dish forces, since they con­sid­ered it could jus­ti­fi­ably be spo­ken in this con­text. These fight­ers knew which coali­tion was theirs, in oppo­si­tion to the impe­ri­al­is­tic poli­cies in the region, and they knew for what kind of future they were fight­ing. They paid a trib­ute to war. Now, they are made to see how the process­es under­way in Roja­va are threat­ened more than ever by an inter­na­tion­al ark of influ­ences keen on keep­ing the brais­es alive for their own benefit.

These polit­i­cal and/or mil­i­tary pres­sures are dou­bled with a grow­ing and averred pre­car­i­ous­ness in North­ern Syr­ia, as a con­se­quence of the block­ades, the war, and even cli­mac­tic con­di­tions. Hid­ing one’s head in the sand and replac­ing the ques­tion of nec­es­sary sup­port for the future of the demo­c­ra­t­ic process with sim­ple-mind­ed, blind­fold­ed pro­pa­gan­da in the con­text of a forced nego­ti­a­tion with the Syr­i­an regime as a con­se­quence of the Turk­ish threat is unacceptable.

Any political project must be defended with eyes wide open, no?

 Con­trary to “war end­ings” where the iden­ti­fied ene­my is van­quished, on its knees and bled dry, the sit­u­a­tion in the Mid­dle East remains one from which is absent a vision of peace for its peo­ples, even after the ter­ri­to­r­i­al dis­ap­pear­ance of ISIS.

Judg­ing the crim­i­nals rais­es a prob­lem where there is no agree­ment on the crime, its breadth, its spon­sors and accom­plices – all min­i­mum require­ments to delin­eate the con­tours of a Tri­bunal to judge them. Hence, it is no longer an agen­da pri­or­i­ty. And Putin will cer­tain­ly not attend to it.

How­ev­er, rais­ing the ques­tion in the way the Kurds have done means plac­ing the ques­tion of Peace at the fore­front, as one must in order to estab­lish a com­mon pact for peace­ful liv­ing in the Mid­dle East.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…