• Melissa Rosales

EIV: Syrian victims have a long path to justice

Link to story: http://www.eivnews.com/archives/4975

Protesters, victims, and human rights activists begin to lose hope in an overthrow of the Syrian government and the prospect of achieving justice, Washington Post reports.

From March 2011 to December 2015, 17,723 people died while in Syrian government detention,  and thousands of other rebels have been brutally tortured, according to Amnesty International.

“[The government] claims it wants to fight terrorism but in reality it wants terrorism to stay put, because an end to terrorism would mean the end of regime,” Col. Abu Firas, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army,  described the Assad government, ABC 9 North Central Wisconsin reports.

Indian Express revealed several European countries including Sweden, Germany, and France are attempting to investigate and prosecute suspects of war crimes in Syria. This is their first attempt to seek justice for victims who have been struggling for six years.

There have been international condemnations, but the Assad government has not been successfully prosecuted for its war crimes.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), focused on prosecuting war crimes, cannot accept Syrian cases because the country is not part of the treaty. The ICC would require approval from the United Nations Security Council to investigate, but Russia blocked this with its council veto. Human rights lawyers, victims,  and protesters have been seeking other options.

A new case involving Syrian refugees living in Germany who were allegedly victimized was filed this Wednesday. Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) aided in filing the case. This is the fourth case to be filed in Europe.

Most cases go after Assad or rely on testimonies of the war crimes, but Wednesday’s case takes a different approach — naming senior intelligence and military officials who may not be granted sovereign immunity.

“We are optimistic that this approach is going to get results,” said general secretary of the EECHR, Wolfgang Kaleck.

However, the path to justice in domestics courts faces multiple obstacles. In Germany’s legal system, a case cannot continue unless prosecutors see it worthy enough to bring to court, but prosecutors are known to loath taking foreign cases.

There are only two war crime cases that have been successful; in both cases, the suspects were in Germany. For instance, a Syrian man was arrested for war crimes last Thursday, but the convicted was living in Germany.

In Spain, courts are handling the “most advanced case” against senior members of the Syrian government. The case selects nine leading members of the Syrian intelligence as accountable for “state terrorism” and death of the brother of a Spanish national. 

Toby Cadman, a British lawyer involved in the case, said their aim is to have the suspects handed over to Spain. “As soon as an arrest warrant is issued, it will be possible to arrest them anywhere in Europe if they leave Syria,” Cadman added.

Although a long shot, the rising number of criminal cases in Germany against the Syrian government brings victims some hope. The process has also given relief to more than 3,500 victims who were severely tortured in Syrian detention centers.