Criminal prosecution without borders – Justice for crimes under international law in German courts

12 November 2020, 7:00 pm


Pieces of fabric with the names of 82 arbitrarily detained and disappeared by the Syrian secret services © Mansour Omari

In April 2020, the Al-Khatib trial got underway in Koblenz, the world’s first criminal trial involving state torture in Syria. The crimes were committed in Syria, the accused are Syrians, as are the survivors. The fact that the trial is nevertheless taking place in Germany is made possible by the principle of universal jurisdiction. It allows the most serious crimes under international law to be tried regardless of where they occurred or the origin of the perpetrators.

Trials based on the principle of universal jurisdiction are sometimes – as the case of Syria shows – the only way to bring the most serious human rights violations to justice when this is not possible at local and international level. They are therefore extremely important to the survivors. At the same time, legal proceedings under the Code of Crimes against International Law (Völkerstrafgesetzbuch) represent a major challenge for German administration of justice.


    Claudia Roth, Vice President German Parliament, Alliance 90/The Greens

Panel I: Perspective of survivors in international criminal proceedings

    Survivors -  (tbc)
    Dr. Sarah Finnin, EU Survivors’ Rights Project Coordinator (FIDH)

Panel II: Practical experience and legal challenges in the prosecution of crimes under international law

    Joumana Seif, Syrian lawyer and women’s rights activist
    Dr. Patrick Kroker, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights  (ECCHR)
    Dr. Leonie Steinl, research assistant at Humboldt University Berlin


    Dr. Bente Scheller, Head of Middle East and North Africa Division (Heinrich Böll Foundation)

Language: Englisch and German (with translation)


Photo: Pieces of fabric on which Mansour Omari documented the names of 82 arbitrarily detained and disappeared by the Syrian secret services © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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