Syria - Torture - Austria

The path to justice leads through Europe – e.g. Austria

Torture survivors from Syria file criminal complaint in Austria against senior officials in Assad government

Syria - Torture - Austria

The path to justice leads through Europe – e.g. Austria

Torture survivors from Syria file criminal complaint in Austria against senior officials in Assad government

They survived torture and detention in Syria and fled to Europe, where they now hope to obtain justice. Austrian authorities should follow the example set in Germany, Sweden and France and initiate investigations into systematic torture under Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. To help achieve this goal, on 29 May 2018, 16 women and men from Syria filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutor in Vienna. The group of torture survivors – which include an Austrian citizen and several people who were detained while still minors, and who have lived in Austria and Germany for some time – are filing the complaint together with ECCHR, the Syrian lawyer Anwar al-Bunni (Syrian Center for Legal Research and Studies) and Mazen Darwish (Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression) as well as the Center for the Enforcement of Human Rights International (CEHRI) in Vienna.

Case

The complaint against 24 senior officials in the Assad government is the first of its kind in Austria and follows four similar complaints under consideration by the Office of the Federal Public Prosecutor in Germany (see right). The allegations of the criminal complaint include torture as a crime against humanity and as a war crime committed by military intelligence, air force intelligence and general intelligence. The torture and other crimes described in the complaint – including murder, extermination, serious bodily harm and deprivation of liberty – were committed between February 2011 and January 2017 in 13 detention centers in Damascus, Daraa, Hama and Aleppo.

Context

Systematic torture against civilians in armed conflicts amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Therefore, the international community needs to speak up for the absolute prohibition of torture, including in armed conflicts. Without justice for the victims there will not be a political solution to the conflict. The government of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad is accountable for numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially for the systematic torture of political dissidents and activists – not only since the peaceful protests in 2011, but for decades. Those responsible for the crimes have nothing to fear; impunity in Syria is nearly absolute.

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glossary

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 sets out rights to be enjoyed by every person, regardless of sex, religion, or where they are from.
The Office of the German Federal Public Prosecutor is Germany's highest prosecutory authority.
War crimes are serious breaches of international humanitarian law committed in armed conflict.
A criminal complaint provides prosecutory authorities with information on a potential crime.
A structural investigation examines a suspected criminal act but without yet looking into specific potential perpetrators.
Crimes against humanity are grave violations of international law carried out against a civilian population in a systematic or widespread way.
Universal jurisdiction allows states to prosecute crimes against international law that were committed elsewhere.

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