Mass atrocities in Syria: How to do Justice?
Torture, executions and "disappearances" of civilians, deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure and indiscriminate bombings, genocides and sexualized violence against Yazidi women are only some of the crimes committed by almost all conflict parties in Syria since 2011. Syrian activists have been documenting these crimes in order to one day bring those responsible to justice.
ECCHR has been investigating crimes committed by all parties of the conflict since 2012 and is now working with an international network.
Legal means to fight impunity in Syria
ECCHR legal interventions related to Syria
ECCHR cooperation partners include, amongst others, the lawyers Anwar Al-Bunni (Syrian Center for Legal Research and Studies, SCLSR) and Mazen Darwish (Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, SCM) as well as torture survivors who have been granted international protection in Germany. Together with ECCHR they submitted the first criminal complaint against six high-level officials of the Syrian Military Intelligence Service to the Office of the Federal Prosecutor in March 2017.
Additionally, along with ECCHR the group around the former Syrian military defector “Caesar” filed a second complaint at the Office of the German Federal Prosecutor against senior officials from the Syrian intelligence service and military police concerning crimes against humanity and war crimes.
In November 2017 ECCHR supplemented previous criminal complaints and evidence with two additional complaints directed against high-ranking officials from the National Security Bureau and Air Force Intelligence as well as the head of the military police and the Saydnaya military prison.
In the working area of Business and Human Rights ECCHR is tackling the role of transnational corporations in Syria. In a criminal complaint against French cement company Lafarge (now LafargeHolcim) the allegations are: Through their dealings with Islamic State (IS), Lafarge subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria might have entered in aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity by financing the group.
In the case of Syria investigation by the International Criminal Court is blocked
There is little prospect of accountability on an international level. The International Criminal Court is not an option as Syria is not a signatory to its statute and Russia is blocking a referral by the UN Security Council. After all, the UN General Assembly established the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the "International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011" (IIIM). The investigators have been gathering evidence against all parties to the conflict for more than five years. The information gathered by the UN-Commission are essential for future legal proceedings in national, regional, or international courts.
The path to justice for mass atrocities in Syria leads through Germany
With the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, however, there is a tool for third states to prosecute perpetrators domestically. Prosecutors in Germany and other EU countries are currently monitoring, investigating and prosecuting human rights related crimes in Syria.
ECCHR uses the principle of Universal Jurisdiction to oppose the violence in Syria with the law, which is the basis for the criminal complaint against officials of the Syrian Intelligence Service filed in Germany.