To counter injustice with legal interventions – this is the aim and daily work of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.
ECCHR is an independent, non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to enforcing civil and human rights worldwide. It was founded in 2007 by Wolfgang Kaleck and other international human rights lawyers to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other human rights declarations and national constitutions, through legal means.
Together with those affected and partners worldwide, ECCHR uses legal means to end impunity for those responsible for torture, war crimes, sexual and gender-based violence, corporate exploitation and fortressed borders.
Other states should follow the lead by the German judiciary
Berlin, 8 June 2018 – "The arrest warrant against Jamil Hassan is a milestone and an important step for all affected by the Assad's torture system – for the survivors, for the family members and also for those who are still held in the government-run detention facilities all over Syria", says Wolfgang Kaleck, General Secretary of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). It is an encouraging sign for 24 Syrian torture survivors and activists, whose testimonies contributed to the arrest warrant. Together with Syrian lawyers Anwar al-Bunni (Syrian Center for Legal Research and Studies) and Mazen Darwish (Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression) and ECCHR, they filed four criminal complaints in Germany against high-ranking officials of the Assad government.
Jamil Hassan, identified as standing on the top of the command structure in complaints filed in September and November 2017, is the head of the Syrian air force intelligence. The criminal complaints name, next to Jamil Hassan, other 26 high-level officials of the Syrian intelligence services and the Syrian military. The allegations include: torture as crimes against humanity and war crimes. One of the criminal complaints was filed by activists of the group supporting the work of "Caesar", a former employee of the Syrian military police. ECCHR has prepared and filed the complaints together with the Syrian torture survivors, lawyers and activists. "I choose justice and human rights over revenge and violence as my means to fight back against what Jamil Hassan has done to me and my friends. And today's decision shows that I chose the right path and I am very grateful for it", says Yazan Awad. He was held four and a half months in various detention facilities of the air force intelligence and was severely tortured during this time. He is one of the claimants in the complaint submitted in November 2017.
"This decision in Germany confirms that justice must be respected as a principle and will not be ignored for any political reason", says Anwar al-Bunni. "It is also a victory for the survivors who have been waiting for justice for a long time."
"It is great news and another milestone which assures us that there will be no impunity to those who committed crimes in Syria", says Mazen Darwish. "As one of the complainants in this case, this is the best news since I was released. I'd like to thank all those who've contributed, especially the survivors – without their courage and their commitment we would've not achieved this."
"By issuing such an arrest warrant, German's chief federal prosecutor emphasizes: Torture is absolutely prohibitied. Those high-level officials responsible for torture in Syria belong before a court. Germany signalizes its readiness to engage in investigations and prosecutions of grave human rights violations", says Kaleck. "Judicial authorities in other states ought to follow such a step by the German judiciary. As long as no international tribunal or court is prosecuting torture in Syria, third countries have to use the principle of universal jurisdiction."
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 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.
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.
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