By Jenny Leong, campaign coordinator, Tactical Campaigns Unit at Amnesty International.
Faced with the news that since mid-March more than 700 people have been killed in Syria, thousands have been arrested and hundreds remain detained incommunicado and at risk of torture, signing an online petition can seem like an inadequate response.
As army tanks shell residential areas in cities, protesters demanding political reform are met with violent suppression by the authorities and Syrians flee to Lebanon and other neighbouring countries, clicking a button on a website can seem a bit meaningless.
And that would be true if you were the only person to do this.
But when 165, 953 people join together and commit to taking an individual action collectively, that is when we see our power to mobilize for positive change.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to rein in his security forces, stop unlawful killings, torture and other gross abuses, and hold those responsible to account.
But the government has shown no willingness to do so and, instead, has intensified repression against its own people as they have continued – despite the bullets – to stand up and demand change.
Consequently, Amnesty International called on the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the same way that it recently referred Libya to the ICC Prosecutor, but the Security Council has failed so far to take this step.
Thanks to the power of our movement, we have now stepped up our demand to make sure that the Syrian authorities and the international community hear our calls.
In the last few weeks 165, 953 people from across the globe – including, most courageously, from within Syria itself – signed on to a petition supporting the call for the crisis in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court and urging the President to stop the bloodshed.
In the Middle East and North Africa, all across Europe, throughout the Americas and into Asia and the Pacific region, individual people took a small action – they clicked a button and signed a petition – and as they did so the call was strengthened and this simple act became a powerful act of solidarity with the Syrian people and an outcry of dismay at the grave human rights crimes now being committed in Syria.
Now, in the coming days the names of these people collected from Turkey to Tunisia, from Canada to the Czech Republic, from Venezuela to Vietnam, and from Spain to Syria – all united in their call to stop the bloodshed in Syria – will be delivered to the Syrian authorities to keep up the pressure on them.
We are sending a copy of this petition with a letter from Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty directly to President al-Assad – but to make sure that they hear our demands over the coming days we will also be delivering copies of the 550-page petition to Syrian embassies around the world.
The Syrian authorities must be left in no doubt that those committing abuses against their own people will be held to account – and the best, surest way to make this clear is for the UN Security Council, without more delay, to refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.