In Germany a criminal complaint provides German authorities (public prosecutors, police, or the district court) with information on a potential crime, allowing them to take further investigatory steps. If there are sufficient indications that a crime has been committed, prosecutory authorities are obliged to pursue the matter and undertake comprehensive investigations.
From 2017 to 2020, Chechen security forces arrested, imprisoned and tortured more than 150 people. Most were gay or bisexual men. The underlying issue is that, according to the government, these men do not correspond to the heterosexual image of masculinity in Chechnya. As a result, they are systematically persecuted.
In the Mercedes Benz case ECCHR is assisting relatives of trade unionists who disappeared from a Mercedes Benz plant in Buenos Aires. A senior manager at the company stands accused of involvement in the disappearances and murders of trade union activists carried out by Argentine security forces.
In January 2019, a dam burst at an iron ore mine near the small Brazilian town of Brumadinho, killing 272 people. Toxic sludge contaminated large sections of the Paraopeba River, poisoning the drinking water of thousands of people. Only four months earlier, the Brazilian subsidiary of German certifier TÜV SÜD confirmed the dam’s safety, despite known safety risks.
In 2013, ECCHR submitted a criminal complaint against a German manager of timber company Danzer Group. He is accused of aiding and abetting, through omission, the crimes of rape, grievous bodily harm, false imprisonment and arson in the DR Congo.
In the course of a military action in Gaza in 2014, Israel’s armed forces killed, among others, members of the German-Palestinian Kilani family. Israeli legal authorities have refused to investigate. ECCHR, on behalf of Ramsis Kilani from Germany, demands that Germany investigate the case.
Cooperation Forensic Architecture
The 18 minute video from Forensic Architecture details the lack of stairs, emergency exits, fire extinguishers and fire alarms in the factory. Inadequate fire safety measures at the company, a supplier for the German clothes retailer KiK, led to the agonizing deaths of 258 factory workers in the blaze.
In 2010, those affected by the construction of the Merowe dam in North Sudan filed criminal complaints against Lahmeyer employees. The German company played a major role in the construction. Over 4,700 families lost their belongings and their means of subsistence.
In Syria, the word Saydnaya has become a synonym for unimaginable torture, systematic degradation and mass executions. Together with four individuals who survived the torture in Saydnaya ECCHR has filed in Germany a criminal complaint against seven high-ranking Syrian military officials.
In November 2017, ECCHR and nine Syrian women and men filed a criminal complaint concerning crimes against humanity and war crimes with the German Federal Public Prosecutor. The complaint is directed against ten high-ranking officials of the National Security Office and Air Force Intelligence, among them Jamil Hassan, its former head.
The Syrian government led by president Bashar al-Assad is responsible for systematic and widespread torture. This is why in March 2017, ECCHR, seven Syrian torture survivors and lawyers Anwar al-Bunni and Mazen Darwish submitted the first criminal complaint against high-level officials of the Syrian military intelligence service to the German Federal Prosecutor.
The group around the former Syrian military police employee “Caesar” took for the first legal action by filing together with ECCHR a criminal complaint against senior officials from the Syrian intelligence services and the military police concerning crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The path to justice for war crimes and torture in Syria also leads through Europe. After Germany, Sweden and France, Austrian authorities have initiated investigations into the Syrian intelligence services’ role in systematic torture. This followed a criminal complaint submitted by 16 Syrians, ECCHR, and its partners to the public prosecutor in Vienna in May 2018.
The Syrian intelligence services have been collecting without cause information about political opponents, members of the opposition and human rights activists. Spying often goes hand in hand with torture. Software from Western corporations may have played a role in the surveillance. In order to address this, transnational investigations have to be initiated.
German authorities must finally prosecute sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Syrian detention centers for what it is: a crime against humanity. This is the aim of a criminal complaint that seven survivors of Bashar al-Assad’s torture system submitted in June 2020 to the German Federal Public Prosecutor in Karlsruhe.
Between 2004 and 2007, three complaints were filed in Germany and in France against members of the US Government, including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and members of the military forces in connection with war crimes, torture and other criminal acts in the military prisons of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.
In December 2005, Wolfgang Kaleck, founder and general secretary of ECCHR, filed a criminal complaint against former Uzbek minister of interior Zakir Almatov, the Uzbek head of secret service Rustan Inojatov, and others to the Federal Public Prosecutor on behalf of eight Uzbek citizens because of torture and crimes against humanity.