The Syrian government led by president Bashar al-Assad is responsible for systematic and widespread torture targeting opponents and activists not only as a reaction to the protests in 2011. There are currently only a few avenues left to prosecute international crimes committed in Syria. One of them is the principle of universal jurisdiction which allows the German judiciary to become active and initiate first steps towards the road to justice without citizenship of the victims or perpetrators being a prerequisite.
In March 2017, ECCHR together with seven Syrian torture survivors as well as the Syrian lawyers Anwar al-Bunni (Syrian Center for Legal Researches & Studies) and Mazen Darwish (Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Speech) submitted the first criminal complaint against six high-level officials of the Syrian Military Intelligence Service to the German Federal Prosecutor. The German Federal Prosecutor responded promptly to the first criminal complaint. At the beginning of May, the claimants gave witness evidence in Berlin. From the torture survivors' perspective this was an important for step to achieve justice.
The criminal complaint targets six officials known by name and further unknown officials of the Syrian Military Intelligence Service. The claimants were tortured or witnessed torture in the prisons of the intelligence services. The aim of this criminal complaint – the individual cases of which are exemplary for the system of torture under the Assad regime – is the issue of international arrest warrants and the beginning of investigations by the prosecutor's office with respect to the persons identified as responsible for the committed crimes.
Complainants' profiles: "They hit you with a cable and a kind of a pipe until you sign all of the accusations."
Q&A: Legal background of the criminal complaint on Syrian torture cases filed in Germany.