Transcript of our Mock Trial of the Assad Regime


Cases: Chemical weapons attack in Ghouta (2013), indiscriminate attacks in Aleppo in 2016, aerial bombardment with industrial chemicals; attacks on the sick and injured in hospital and medical workers (35,000 evacuated, 100 wounded, unknown numbered killed); Khan Sheikhoun, chemical attack in 2017.

Evidence: UN Commissions and Inquiries, SG Ban Ki-Moon, Syrian Arab Red Crescent, ICRC.


6.1 and 6.3 of the statute (which Convention or protocol?). Personal liability as if they committed the crimes themselves. Planned, ordered, or committed.

  1. Murder as a crime against humanity. Article 2a of the ICC court statute.
  2. Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being. Article 3, and Protocol 2
  3. Inhuman acts Article 2i and Protocol 2.
  4. Acts of terrorism. Article 3 common to GC Article 3b of the court statute.
  5. Attacking humanitarian services. Protocol 3.

Closing remarks.


Opening remarks: Focus on external aggressors and assert violations of Syria’s sovereignty. Regime open to reform and entitled under international norms. Syrian army is protecting civilians against aggressive foreign terrorists. It’s a civil war, but international aggressors are interfering and provoking. Evidence is biased and manufactured to discredit the Assad regime. US, UK and France are influencing global opinion. Syrian government is victim of others’ violations of the Geneva Conventions.

Ghouta: Evidence from US news organizations that US used Turkey to smuggle chemical weapons into Syria to US against Syrian civilians. Al-Nusra group responsible for use of chemical weapons. Al-Qaeda has tested these weapons on dogs, recorded on video. Attempts to buy Sarin gas precursors in bulk. Evidence produced through torture, not valid or believable. US has no credible authority in terms of protecting human rights. Veterans Today tracked chemical weapons given by US to terrorist groups for use in Syria. Ron Paul stated that airstrikes in de-confliction zones are violations of international law. 1925 Protocol and 1997 Convention on Chemical and Biological Weapons–US has violated it, while Syria hasn’t even signed on to this treaty. 1980 protocol on conventional weapons–white phosphorus. The US used white phosphorus on civilians in June 2017. Travel ban violates the Geneva Convention IV Art. 3 para. 1 that protects refugees and prohibits discrimination and persecution.

Aid workers (“White Helmets”) are themselves in violation of GCs because they use the cover of symbols to support terrorists against the Syrian government forces.

Saudi Arabia supports ISIS. Trump and Clinton agreed on this. Donald Trump called Saudi Arabia the world’s biggest funder of terrorism. White Helmets are funded by Saudi Arabia to funnel weapons through Turkey into Syria.

In addition, US violations of human rights are directly associated with violations in the Libyan campaign and death of Gaddafi. (Respectful treatment of the dead, treatment of prisoners, torture of detainees in Gitmo). Biased prosecutors, biased institution, no clear evidence that the Syrian regime is guilty of those violations.

Prosecution rebuttal: 

  • Who actually used chemical weapons since the defense mentioned many actors who might have used them?
  • Explain further about Saudi Arabia’s responsibility.
  • Travel ban: Bans terrorists and illegal immigration, not refugees. Branch of Iraqi refugee camps. (Not discriminatory–not a Muslim ban.) (Obama did the same thing in 2015 based on intelligence reports.)

Defense response:

  • Vetting of refugees is based only on the country of origin.
  • President’s tweets communicate intent to ban Muslim immigration.
  • Jan. 30. Why did a representative of the Geneva Convention call Pres. Trump to tell him his ban is a violation of the Geneva Convention.
  • Saudi influence destroying tolerant Islamic traditions.
  • DOJ informed Trump that ban would be challenged in court.
  • In essence, evidence has no credibility because it comes from official US sources.

Tribunal’s questions:

  1. What does the Trump travel ban have to do with charges against Assad regime? (Response: ban is an example of a violation of the GCs that demonstrate the hypocrisy of trying the Assad regime but not others responsible for violations in the Syrian conflict.)
  2. In regard to charge that White Helmets are a Saudi-backed terrorist group, how do you respond to the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee awarded them the Nobel Prize for Peace. (Response: Syrian government has confessions from White Helmets who admit they have been framing the government.)
  3. Question for the prosecution: What again are your sources? (Response: UN, ICRC, Syrian Arab Red Crescent.)
  4. What is the estimated death toll? (No ability to estimate.)
  5. Defense, yes or no. Did you use chemical weapons? Did you target civilians? Did you use white phosphorus in civilian-dense locations? (No, no and no.)
  6. Followup: White phosphorus is permitted for illumination in urban areas. Without ratification, Syria is still bound by international convention based on prior actions. Peremptory laws mean that certain actions invalidate sovereignty and allow for foreign intervention.
  7. Followup for prosecution: How can you prove that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its people? Response: The Syrian government has lost control over nearly half of its territory to parties such as ISIS. How can the prosecution prove that these groups didn’t deploy chemical weapons? (No delivery system; no infrastructure. The weapons were deployed by air.) Would you label the Assad regime a terrorist regime? (No, they are war criminals.) Questions about barrel bombs.

Verdicts on charges:

  1. Murder as a crime against humanity. Article 2a of the ICC court statute. No actual defense, find the defendants guilty.
  2. Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being. Article 3, and Protocol 2. No credible defense, find the defendants guilty. 
  3. Inhuman acts (torture) Article 2i and Protocol 2. Not enough evidence to convict.
  4. Acts of terrorism. Article 3 common to GC Article 3b of the court statute. Not guilty because prosecution characterized defendants as war criminals.
  5. Attacking humanitarian services. Protocol 3. Guilty.

Sentence to death by hanging, by beheading, and electrocution, or whichever comes first. (Punishment left to the new Syrian regime.)

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Syria Simulation: Mock Trial of Assad Regime

Wednesday in class we will conduct a mock trial of the Syrian regime on charges of crimes against humanity. Our goal is to understand some of the constrictions on social justice embedded in international human rights law. To prepare, you should familiarize yourself with some materials on the Geneva Conventions, which will constitute the letter of the law we’ll use in this trial.

Your goals for preparation:

  • Prosecution: You’ll need to identify evidence published in reliable news sources that proves the Assad regime is guilty of war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria. You’ll need to list specific clauses of the Geneva Conventions and other international human rights laws that the regime is guilty of violating.
  • Regime’s Legal Defense: You’ll need to cast doubt on the credibility of the evidence or its sources or find a rationale within the international law that allows for the regime’s actions.
  • TribunalYou’ll need to judge between the prosecution and defense and determine which, if any, of the charges are justified by the evidence.

ICRC: “Rules of War”

PBS Documentary on the Nuremberg Trials

RT “ICC Enemy of Liberty”

RT “ICC Enemy of Liberty”

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Notes from Student-Led Lessons on Egyptian Deep State

Youth activists and labor movement:

  • P. 49–Military refused to intervene against demonstrators in Jan./Feb. 2011.
  • P. 50–Used the court system to suppress popular dissent since 2013. Military trials of civilians.
  • P. 55–Brotherhood won presidency but SCAF amended constitution to expand authority (forbade public scrutiny)
  • P. 46–April 6 Movement (2008) FB group.

Mubarak and feloul/crony capitalists:

  • P. 42-43–Public sector firms sold off to Mubarak family and their supporters (non-military).
  • P. 43–Only 19 percent of Egyptian men had found a job. “Waithood.” Trusting privatization to create new opportunities.
  • Mismanagement and corruption fueled public rage.
  • Market failures. 2008 2009
  • Gamal Mubarak (20 to 100 billion in Egyptian revenue in private accounts) P. 48
  • Ahmed Ezz (example of crony capitalist.)

Islamist groups (MB, salafists, militant radicalists):

  • P. 52–salafi (throwback vision of society, 7th century-9th century). Kept out of politics, underground, no public organization, politically absent until 2011. (Less trustworthy to SCAF than Brotherhood.) Al-Nur Party.
  • P. 55–Conditional ascendancy to presidency. Manage the elections, stall, issue amendments to the constitution.
  • p. ?–Economic sabotage.
  • Coup d’etat in 2014. Tamarrud.
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Advice on Revising Blogs and Preparing for Unit I Test

The blog topics all look great and basically the blogs are composed in the right way, but here are some pointers for revising them. You can revise them until 3pm on Monday, June 5 and I’ll regrade them then. If you didn’t submit yet, that’s fine. I’ll grade what you submit on Monday.

  • Each blog entry should be numbered and have a thematic subtitle, like “Blog #1: The Basic Things I’m Learning to Get Myself Started on my Topic.” (The subtitle I’m giving here is more instructive of what kind of subtitle you should give it.)
  • Each blog entry should have two links related to the same theme. They should be different enough from each other that comparing them will result in some interesting reflections. The summaries of them should be in paragraph form, and should maybe describe what the link is (who published it, where and when, for example) as well as some of the key pieces of information worth noting in them. The summaries should be in paragraph form rather than bullet points.
  • The reflection should be more personal than impersonal. That is, rather than just talking about the two items linked, you should talk about what you already knew and what you learned from the artifacts; you should compare and contrast their content and points of view, maybe also interpreting them from different perspectives on globalization. For the first two blog entries, you might also use the reflection paragraphs to chart what you hope to learn about your topic, questions that the pieces you found raise, and what other kinds of artifacts and perspectives you might look for in your remaining blog entries for the semester.
  • The embedded Google Map will probably have to be created using a personal Google account rather than the account, and be sure that you choose the Public sharing option where anyone with the link can view the map. The map should have two tags, one for each link, and you should add the same links to the two tags that you included in your blog post.

For Unit Test I, it will cover the Tunisian revolution (Ch. 1 of Arab Spring) and the Egyptian revolution (Ch. 2 of Arab Spring), the Five Perspectives on Globalization in the intro to Controversies In Globalization, and the chapters we will have studied through Monday on trade liberalization, free trade and inequality, poverty, and democratization (Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 17).

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Sample Blog Post #1: Reporting Out on Self-Guided Learning/Tunisia

Al-Jazeera from 2014 on Ben Ali’s corruption.

  • Police state and use of violence to suppress the population.
  • Wikileaks data showed that Ben Ali’s regime was run like a mafia.
  • Used national resources for personal gain.
  • Highly educated population with limited employment opportunities.
  • Economic sectors: agriculture, phosphates and mineral mining, exporting bottled water, fishing, tourism, real estate.

UGTT’s official website.

  • Muslim Women’s Union
  • Trade unions (coopted)
  • Secular/Islamist
  • An-Nahda (Islamic Tendency Movement)
  • hardliners, pragmatic conservatives, and liberal Islamists.


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