Testifying against Assad - Seeking Justice for Syria
Thousands of prisoners have been tortured and killed in Bashar al-Assad's jails. Now survivors of these horrors are trying to bring the systematic human rights violations carried out in Syrian prisons before the courts in Germany. The international legal principle of 'universal jurisdiction' could allow the Assad regime's crimes against humanity in Syria to be prosecuted in foreign courts.
Khaled was tortured in Syrian government prisons. The worst ordeal for him was being forced to watch the torture of other detainees: young people from Damascus who, like himself, had taken to the streets during the "Arab Spring" of 2011 to demonstrate peacefully against the government. Khaled's wife Abeer was also imprisoned and subjected to humiliation for months in one of the notorious prisons run by Syria's military intelligence. Today the two live in Germany. They are part of a small group of witnesses who, together with lawyers Mazen Darwish and Anwar al-Bunni, have filed a criminal complaint for war crimes and crimes against humanity with the German Federal Public Prosecutor in Karlsruhe. "No peace without justice," say the two Syrian human rights lawyers. They are convinced that if the perpetrators are not seen to be brought to justice, the spiral of violence will continue to escalate. Since escaping to Germany three years ago, they have been pursuing one goal: to bring the systematic human rights violations committed in Syrian military prisons to trial. They cannot appeal to the International Criminal Court in The Hague because Syria has not ratified the Rome Statute that established it. In addition, Russia has blocked the UN Security Council from initiating a tribunal to try war crimes in Syria. The lawyers and witnesses are placing their hopes in the international legal principle of 'universal jurisdiction'. Following the example of the Nuremberg trials, it would enable crimes against humanity committed in Syria to be prosecuted in Germany.