Fires fuel retribution and paranoia in Northeast Syria

  After years of drought, heavy rainfalls this year had raised hopes for a bountiful harvest. Yet across Northern Syria, farmers are watching helplessly as months of toil and their source of livelihood burn to ashes. For many farmers and local communities already suffering from high rates of food insecurity and debt, the destruction of […]

SJAC and Partners Urge Caution with regard to International Tribunal limited to ISIS Crimes

On Monday, representatives from eleven European countries met in Stockholm to discuss the possibility of establishing an international tribunal to prosecute ISIS members. Initiative for the meeting and proposed tribunal has been led by the Swedish government and was lobbied for across Europe by Swedish Interior Minister Mikael Damberg in recent weeks. SJAC supports the […]

Lessons for Syria from Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission

  Since the government of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in 2011, Tunisia has embarked on the long process of reconciliation and transitional justice. This past week, 8 years after protests first swept through the streets of Tunis, Tunisians marked a major milestone in this effort with the release of the Truth and […]

Prosecuting ISIS in Northeast Syria

  On April 11, the Syrian Democratic Forces announced an agreement with Baghdad to repatriate 31,000 Iraqis, mostly women and children, currently held in Northeast Syria. This is a troubling development, given the human rights violations that have been widely documented in Iraq’s prosecution of suspected ISIS members and supporters, and the decision further complicates […]

Justice or Forgiveness? The Case of Anwar Raslan

  On February 13, prosecutors in Germany announced that they, in conjunction with their French counterparts, arrested three Syrians accused of crimes against humanity. One of these suspects, identified only as Anwar R., is alleged to have been involved in the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in a government detention center in Damascus. Soon reports […]

What Does the Marie Colvin Case Mean for Syrians?

  Last week, a U.S. District Court issued a judgement ordering the Syrian government to pay $302.5 million to the family of slain journalist Marie Colvin, sparking considerable discussion among Syrians about the meaning and implications of the court order. War correspondent Marie Colvin was one of the only foreign journalists reporting out of the […]

Supporting Syrian Survivors During Justice Processes

In 1998, the UN passed resolution 52/149, making June 26th the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture to raise awareness of the prevalence of torture and its absolute prohibition under international law. Now, over twenty years later, the struggle to eradicate torture continues, but, in Syria, the practice remains prevalent not only in […]

Jamil Hassan and the Challenges of Universal Jurisdiction

On June 8, Der Spiegel broke the news that Germany’s chief federal prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for Jamil Hassan, the head of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate, who is accused of implementing a campaign of murder and torture through the department’s detention facilities. The warrant is the result of years of work […]

International Sanctions Are Not a Substitute for Accountability in Syria

On July 17, the European Union (EU) sanctioned 16 members of the Syrian government accused of facilitating chemical weapons attacks. British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson announced that the sanctions send a “clear signal” to the government that its actions have consequences. However, only one month prior, President Emmanuel Macron of France – a key member […]

The International Community’s Gross Negligence in Syria

For anyone following the Syrian crisis, the news of the past two months has been tragic and has highlighted the international community’s gross negligence in protecting civilians and providing hope that justice will be a part of Syria’s future. In August, a chemical weapons report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN Joint […]

Justice and Peace: A False Dichotomy

Although the Syria peace talks have stalled in recent months, closed-door discussions continue between the United States and Russia to resolve the current impasse. As these discussions go on, it has become increasingly clear that criminal justice is not a priority for either the UN Special Envoy or the international brokers. Even though amnesties have […]

Sweden’s First Steps towards Justice Prove Controversial among Syrians

In late February, a Swedish court sentenced Mouhannad Droubi to five years in prison for committing a “torture-like” assault of a captured regime soldier in 2012. Droubi was a member of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) at the time but had been living in Sweden since being granted asylum in 2013. The case, which marks […]

The Commission of Inquiry and the Due Process of Justice in Syria

(Members of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria ; Martial Trezzini / EPA)   In late February, the United Nations’ Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria (COI-Syria), released its latest report detailing the pervasive and “exponentially” increasing atrocities committed by all parties in the Syrian conflict. While the report sought to mobilize the international […]

Jordan’s Vengeance against ISIS Sets Bad Precedent for Syria

United States and Royal Jordanian air forces conducting exercises over the Dead Sea in Jordan (Photo Credit: US Air Force) Earlier this month, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) burned the captured Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh alive, filmed his execution with cinematic levels of production, and released the video worldwide. The brutality of the […]

Attend SJAC Event Examining Syrian Perspectives on Local Ceasefires and Reconciliation Initiatives

In the year since the Geneva II talks failed to deliver any discernible progress towards a resolution of the conflict, the humanitarian and security situation in Syria has further deteriorated. With a recalcitrant regime, growing extremism, and a faltering moderate opposition, support among Syrians for a broad-based, internationally negotiated settlement to the crisis has diminished […]

Evaluating Assad’s Claims of Regime-Backed Accountability Measures

  In an interview with Foreign Affairs magazine coinciding with the Moscow discussions that took place in late January 2015, Bashar al-Assad discussed several points relating to the transitional justice and accountability process in Syria.  Assad spoke conceptually about Syria’s commitment to upholding human rights but provided only vague and evasive answers when pressed on […]

Justice, peace, or neither?

This spring brought poignant anniversaries: it has now been three years since the inception of the Syrian crisis, twelve years since the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and twenty years since the Rwandan genocide. The links are clear. To what extent can institutions of justice, such as the ICC, address ongoing conflicts? Can […]

Impunity as Everyday Life

Even in areas of Syria away from the immediate vicinity of shelling or battles, the imposition of armed force is very real. Many authorities feel a sense of impunity within areas under their control, which too often means that calls for accountability for violations against civilians seem hopeless. The problem exists in areas under government […]

The Short and the Long View: Documentation for Accountability

Recent days have seen a flurry of activities that have the potential to drive forward accountability in Syria. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 2118 requiring the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons program, and there is renewed interest in the possibility for a Geneva II. But the efforts currently underway are unlikely to meet many […]

Chemical weapons aren’t the only lethal weapons in Syria

With international condemnation once again narrowed in on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, other grave human rights violations escape such attention.  As American comedian Jon Stewart sarcastically put it, “you can’t use chemicals to kill your own people, you have to do it organically.” The satire underlines the unfortunate reality that, while deserving […]

The Shallow and Deep Ends of Transitional Justice

At the outset of 2013, the SJAC commented on the need to keep up the momentum of transitional justice efforts in Syria. We wrote that “talking about transitional justice in the future is good, but it is the concrete efforts that Syrians are making today to document and disseminate information that will drive the success […]