Human language

A historic verdict and a new front in the global fight for human rights

What shocked him, however, was how indifferent the authors were that such documents could ever be used against them. “You would expect them to try to hide things,” he says. “But no, they still signed with their names, rank and in their own handwriting. They believed 100% that they could write whatever they wanted and behave however they wanted.

The Syrian regime’s brutality was infamous long before 2011. In the early years of the fight against terrorism, the US government and others relied on it, using “extraordinary renditions” to send individuals to Syria to to carry out interrogations using torture methods that the CIA does not do. t afford. When the United States captured and returned a German citizen of Syrian descent who had known about the 9/11 Hamburg hijackers, the German government coordinated with the Syrian regime to allow German investigators to interview their citizen in Syria. But for decades, the Syrian regime has used torture and enforced disappearances – the arrest, detention or abduction of a person, as well as the refusal to recognize that person’s fate – primarily to terrorize the Syrian people, thereby deterring generations from challenging their regime. . (Today, approximately 100,000 missing persons remain missing.)

The agents of this terror have been the mukhabarat — their noun derived from the verb kabbara: notify or inform — and has been for so long that for many Syrians it has always been that way. Although the mukhabarat came to Syria under Gamal Abdel Nasser when Syria and Egypt briefly merged into the United Arab Republic in 1958, their ranks and activities expanded under Hafez al-Assad, who seized power in a 1970 coup. ‘State. the mukhabarat are a much less refined version of the Stasi, which at different times in history has trained Syrians in the methods. (During the Cold War, Syria was mostly aligned with the Soviet Union.) Since 1962, these security agencies have operated above the law, protected by an emergency decree partly justified by supposed external threats, allowing them to collect intelligence and suspend civil rights and freedoms. When the Arab Spring appeared to disrupt the status quo, the regime dispatched the mukhabarat. By blaming a foreign conspiracy for the popular uprising of 2011, the regime was simultaneously saying that its security apparatus was remarkably ineffective in anticipating, let alone containing, those “external threats” that were essential to their so-called purpose, and for which Syrians have sacrificed decades of rights.

Mukhabarat the violence is often strangely invisible, even pervasive. Rather than occupying buildings in remote areas of the city, mukhabarat branches have long been placed in residential neighborhoods – there are at least 20 of them in Damascus alone – so that Syrians cross paths with them in their daily lives. Their presence, and awareness of the unspeakable things going on inside, has kept Syrians actively threatened and in line. So when European Union countries say that Syrian refugees should be sent back because in the regime-controlled parts of the country the war has stopped and therefore must be safe, opponents of these policies believe that supporters are revealing a deep (and possibly deliberate) misreading. of the situation.

Syrians have never been able to challenge the Assad regime’s violations of their human rights in their own country. But they have virtually no legal recourse against the Syrian state in any international legal forum. The most appropriate forum, the International Criminal Court, remains inaccessible to Syrians. Created to investigate and prosecute four core international crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression – in situations where states are “unable” or “unwilling” to do so themselves- Similarly, the ICC only has jurisdiction over states that are parties to the 1998 Rome Statute that created it. (With Syria, non-parties include the United States, Russia, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China.) Alternatively, the UN Security Council can refer states to the ICC , but Security Council members Russia and China vetoed the removal of the Syrian regime in May 2014. Ad hoc tribunals, such as those established for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, also need the support from the Security Council.

For Syrians seeking to pursue legal remedies against those who have violated their rights, only domestic courts remain in countries that recognize universal jurisdiction. Such jurisdiction makes it possible to prosecute these core international crimes regardless of where they were committed and regardless of the location or nationality of the accused or complainant involved. The underlying idea is that these crimes affect the entire international community. Universal jurisdiction is enshrined in the law of many EU countries, where more than a million displaced Syrians have sought refuge over the past decade. This includes Germany, which is home to almost 60% of Syrians in the European Union.

While Syria is far from Germany, thousands of potential witnesses and victims – and, no doubt, perpetrators too – now find themselves together in Germany. Among them are prominent Syrian human rights lawyers and activists who wasted no time – even in the pain and confusion of displacement and exile – in trying to stop further abuses. in Syria, as well as to demand some justice for the victims and the accountability of the perpetrators. . They have found willing partners in German civil society and the German Federal Attorney General’s Office, which handles international war crimes cases.