Human Rights

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UN Investigators Preparing to Bring War Crimes Charges Against Assad Regime

Investigators working for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), an organization established by the United Nations to probe charges of war crimes committed in Syria since 2011 over the course of its bloody civil war, say that they are getting closer to bringing members of the regime of Bashar al-Assad to justice, Reuters reported Friday.

“We are progressing I have no doubt, we are going in the right direction,” Catherine Marchi-Uhel, a former French judge, who heads IIIM, told Reuters. “We are already going in that direction of identifying the most serious crimes, identifying perpetrators, not just physical perpetrators but those who orchestrated, assisted or condoned the commission of crimes that are really our mandate.”

She said that the progress her organization has made makes it more likely that some of those who committed war crimes in Syria will be brought to justice.

Last month, two Syrians were arrested in Germany and another one in France. The three are accused of torturing regime opponents and other crimes against humanity.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) doesn’t have jurisdiction over Syria, because the country is not a signatory of the treaty that established the court. However, there are refugees in countries where the ICC has jurisdiction asking for investigations into the regime.

A group of Syrian refugees in Jordan, which accepts the ICC’s jurisdiction, have asked the court to investigate war crimes committed by the Syrian regime. Additionally, a group of torture survivors in Sweden filed a criminal complaint last month against Syria officials invoking universal jurisdiction.

Amnesty International charged in February 2017 that at least 13,000 people were killed in Assad’s prisons in the first five years of the civil war.

The UN formally accused Assad in 2016 of authorizing the “extermination” of prisoners.

The New Yorker also reported in April 2016 on the Commission for International Justice and Accountability’s (CIJA) work to help establish the culpability of the high-ranking Assad regime officials who authorized war crimes.

The documentation and testimony being gathered by CIJA has been supplemented by photographs of the regime’s thousands of torture and murder victims, which were smuggled out of Syria by a former military police photographer known as Caesar.

Stephen Rapp, then the top war crimes official for the United States government, declared in July 2014 that Caesar’s photographs provided “solid evidence of the kind of machinery of cruel death that we haven’t seen frankly since the Nazis.”

[Photo: Stanford Global Studies / YouTube ]