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’s role in the fight for accountability and justice
Stockholm/Berlin, 20 February 2019 – Fighting impunity for torture in Syria step-by-step: Nine torture survivors submitted a criminal complaint in Stockholm yesterday against senior officials in the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including for crimes against humanity. The women and men from Syria are using universal jurisdiction to bring to court those responsible for Assad’s torture system. Their aim: for the Swedish judiciary to investigate the 25 named intelligence officials, as well as those not yet known by name, and issue international arrest warrants. The criminal complaint in Sweden follows legal steps already taken in Germany, France, Austria, and other European countries.
In Germany, witnesses in similar complaints, as well as photographs and documents from the Caesar Files Group, contributed significantly to the issuance of an international arrest warrant against Jamil Hassan, Head of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence. Investigations by German and French authorities also led to the arrest of former officers of the Assad government in February 2019. Should the suspects face trials, at least six torture survivors wishto participate as civil parties.
These first legal successes offer hope to Abdulnaser (whose surname is not published for security reasons), one of the plaintiffs in Sweden: “I survived torture in two detention centers of the General Intelligence Service in Damascus. But to this day thousands of prisoners in Syria face death by torture. We file this criminal complaint to help put an end to this torture system.”
Abdulnaser and other torture survivors filed the complaint together with the Syrian lawyers Anwar al-Bunni (Syrian Center for Legal Research and Studies, SCLSR) and Mazen Darwish (Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, SCM), the Caesar Files Group as well as the Swedish organization Civil Rights Defenders (CRD) and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) from Berlin. CRD and ECCHR, whose legal research and analysis forms the basis of the criminal complaint, have been working together closely with the complainants.
(Also) Sweden can play an important role in the fight against impunity for turture in Syria. This is why, in February 2019, nine torture survivors submitted a criminal complaint in Stockholm against senior officials in the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – including for crimes against humanity.
"As the head of Syrian Air Force Intelligence, Jamil Hassan was responsible for the torture me and my friends suffered. The international arrest warrant shows, that our criminal complaint is the right path to achieve justice”, says Yazan Awad, a Syrian torture survivors who cooperates with ECCHR.
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.
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.
The Syrian government led by president Bashar al-Assad is responsible for systematic and widespread torture. ECCHR together with seven Syrian torture survivors as well as the Syrian lawyers al-Bunni and Darwish submitted the first criminal complaint against six high-level officials of the Syrian military intelligence service to the German Federal Prosecutor.
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