New 'Justice for Syria' campaign launched on sixth anniversary of crisis

‘Six harrowing years on, there is no excuse for allowing the horrific crimes under international law that are being committed in Syria to go unpunished’ - Samah Hadid

As war crimes and crimes against humanity go unpunished in Syria, an Amnesty International campaign marking the sixth anniversary of the crisis calls on world leaders to take immediate action to deliver justice, truth and reparation to the millions of victims of the conflict (15 March). 

The “Justice for Syria” campaign - backed by a powerful short video - calls on governments to end impunity and make accountability a reality for the Syrian people by supporting and funding the investigative mechanism on Syria voted for by the UN General Assembly in December.

Amnesty is also calling on world leaders to enforce the principle of “universal jurisdiction” to investigate and prosecute - in their own courts - suspected perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

Crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by all parties to the conflict in Syria have been widely documented by Amnesty - and other human rights organisations - since the beginning of the crisis. These crimes include extrajudicial executions, torture and deliberate attacks on civilians, homes, medical facilities and civilian infrastructure, as well as indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, enforced disappearances, extermination, and hostage-taking.

Last month Amnesty revealed how up to 13,000 people had been tortured and secretly executed in Saydnaya military prison near Damascus as part of what Amnesty described as a Syrian government “policy of extermination.”

According to the UN special envoy to Syria, the death toll since the beginning of the crisis has surpassed 400,000. More than 20% of the Syrian population live as refugees outside their country, while half the population living inside Syria in need of humanitarian assistance.

Amnesty believes the UN resolution has given the people of Syria a glimmer of hope that justice is possible. It calls for the establishment of an independent international mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria since March 2011. The resolution sends an important signal by bypassing a deadlocked UN Security Council which has proven incapable of ending impunity for crimes under international law or human rights violations in Syria. The mechanism now awaits necessary funds from UN member states to be secured before becoming operational. 

Samah Hadid, Campaigns Director at Amnesty International’s Beirut Office, said:

“Six harrowing years on, there is no excuse for allowing the horrific crimes under international law that are being committed in Syria to go unpunished.

“Governments already have the legal tools at their disposal to end the impunity that has allowed hundreds of thousands of Syrians to be killed and millions more displaced. It is time to put those tools into action.”

Universal jurisdiction

All states are permitted to exercise universal jurisdiction over crimes under international law, like war crimes or crimes against humanity. Universal jurisdiction provides for the ability to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity, torture, genocide, and enforced disappearances in Syria, regardless of where the crime was committed or the nationality of the suspect or victim. More than 147 countries have provided for universal jurisdiction over one or more crimes under international law. Currently, several European countries - including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland - are in the process of investigating crimes committed in Syria.  

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