To counter injustice with legal interventions – this is the aim and daily work of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).
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 together with other international human rights lawyers, in order to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other declarations of human rights and national constitutions, through legal means.
Together with affected persons and partners worldwide, ECCHR uses legal means to end impunity of those responsible for torture, war crimes, sexualized violence, corporate exploitation and fortressed borders.
Europe has opportunity to hold Syria accountable for state torture
Oslo, 12 November 2019 – Trials and investigations in Europe can pave the way to end impunity for grave crimes committed by the government of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. Five torture survivors filed criminal charges, including crimes against humanity, against 17 senior officials of Assad’s security apparatus on 11 November in Oslo. The crimes detailed in the complaint were committed in 14 detention facilities throughout Syria by officials connected to the Military Intelligence, General Intelligence and Political and Criminal Security divisions.
In Germany, the first trial worldwide on state torture in Syria is expected to start in 2020, following the indictment of two former officials of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate on 22 October 2019. Similar investigations and legal proceedings are ongoing in France, Sweden and Austria.
“I want those responsible for Assad’s torture system to stand trial. I joined this criminal complaint in Norway because in my own country, there is no prospect of achieving accountability. Investigations in Europe will send an important signal to Syria: no one, not even high-ranking officials, are above the law,” said one of the plaintiffs. He* was detained by the Syrian General Intelligence and subjected to various torture techniques.
Another plaintiff, a woman* who was detained three times, added, “When I left prison in 2013 I was nothing but a body full of scars. I’m still struggling with the consequences of the torture. Taking legal action is my way to raise the voice of all the other Syrian women suffering the same, even today, in Assad’s prisons. I’m confident that the Norwegian authorities will initiate investigates to help to hold those responsible to account.”
The plaintiffs filed the complaint together with the Syrian Center for Legal Research and Studies (SCLRS), the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), the Caesar Files Group (CFSG), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) and Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). The organizations, whose legal research and analysis forms the basis of the criminal complaint, have been working closely with the plaintiffs over the last months.
Like in other European countries, the legal action in Norway is based on the principle of universal jurisdiction. The aim of the criminal complaint – the individual cases of which are exemplary for the system of torture under the Assad regime – is for the Norwegian judiciary to investigate the 17 intelligence officials and issue international arrest warrants.
*The witnesses’ names will not be published for security reasons.
In order to end impunity for state torture in Syria, five Syrian torture survivors filed a criminal complaint in November 2019 in Norway. The complaint is the next step in a series of criminal complaints against 17 high-ranking officials of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government that have been submitted in Germany, Austria and Sweden.
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