Spike in “Honor Killings” Fuels Protests for Accountability in Northeast Syria

  Two recent honor killings in Syria’s northeast have ignited public outrage and started a debate about how these murders should be prosecuted in the community. It is nearly impossible to determine the full scope of honor killings that take place every year in Syria. According to Human Rights Watch, over 200 women were murdered […]

Inside the Raslan Trial: Trauma, justice, and politics

   TRIAL OF ANWAR RASLAN Higher Regional Court – Koblenz, Germany Trial Monitoring Report 39 Hearing Dates: June 30 & July 1, 2021 A full PDF of this report is available, here. All reports and witness lists are available, here.   CAUTION: Some testimony includes descriptions of torture.   Summaries/Highlights:[1] Trial Day 79 – June 30, 2021 […]

UPDATE: German Prosecutor indicted Syrian Doctor for Crimes Against Humanity

  Caution: This blog post includes descriptions of torture. After one year of pre-trial detention, the German Federal Prosecutor General filed the public indictment against Alaa M. at the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt on July 15, 2021 [GER only]. Once the court confirms the opening of the main trial within a few weeks’ time, […]

Time to Focus on the Victims – on EU Day against Impunity

Trials concerning crimes against humanity, such as the one currently taking place in Koblenz, show that victims of core international crimes often do not know enough about their rights relating to support and participation, as well as consequences of their involvement as witnesses or plaintiffs. In recent years, European Union (EU) agencies such as Europol, […]

A Drop in the Ocean: A Preliminary Assessment of the Koblenz Trial on Syrian Torture 

*This blog was originally published in Just Security.*   April 23 marks one year since the start of the trial of two former Syrian intelligence officials in Koblenz, Germany. The case was initiated through the exercise of “universal jurisdiction,” which allows States to claim jurisdiction for serious crimes that violate international law regardless of where the alleged crime was committed or the nationality of the person […]

Can Russia be held accountable for its violations in Syria?

  Russia has not only continued to veto possible ways of holding the Syrian government accountable for its atrocities, it has also taken an active role in the Syrian conflict. A recent 200-page report by Russian activists details the various human rights violations and international crimes that the parties to the conflict, among them Russia, have been committing. Despite repeated calls by the United Nations and other states, Russia […]

A Tribunal for ISIS Fighters – a National Security and Human Rights Emergency

  *The full version of this article was published by Just Security. One of the most vexing challenges faced in northeast Syria is what to do with some 10,000 ISIS fighters as well as 60,000 women and children left behind after the territorial defeat of ISIS. These individuals are detained in a network of prisons and […]

Blackboxing Justice: Greater transparency needed in German universal jurisdiction trials

On April 23, 2020, Germany was commended on the start of “the world’s first trial on state-torture”. Still, close observers of the trial of Anwar R. and Eyad A. (Koblenz trial) have noticed some underlying issues common to German trials under universal jurisdiction (UJ). Other trials currently underway in Frankfurt and Düsseldorf support the image that in seeking accountability for perpetrators of international crimes, Germany should enable greater transparency and inclusivity for the survivors of the crimes. Public Access  Significant efforts […]

New Report: The State of Justice in Syria, 2021

March 15, 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of the conflict in Syria. While initial steps towards pursuing justice for survivors of human rights abuses have begun, there is still a long road to achieving justice and accountability for Syrians. On the eve of this anniversary, the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) has launched its […]

Reflections on the Eyad Al-Gharib Judgment

  On February 24, 2021, the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz found Eyad Al-Gharib guilty of aiding and abetting torture and forced imprisonment as crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 4.5 years imprisonment. The defense will likely appeal the judgment. The judges’ reasoning shows two important aspects that should have been considered in determining […]

Coverage of the ISIS Beatles Trial Should Avoid Sensationalism and Center Victims

  A recent New York Times scandal has renewed discussions on media coverage of ISIS, specifically the danger of sensationalism distorting realities on the ground through shaping public discourse and adversely affecting policy. Sensationalist coverage threatens to impede truth-seeking and reconciliation efforts in Syria, while also discouraging the repatriation and resettlement of former ISIS fighters […]

A Syrian Guide to Justice in the United States

On September 4, 2019, SJAC launched six Universal Jurisdiction briefs at the House of Democracy and Human Rights in Berlin, Germany. These briefs focused on the application of universal jurisdiction in Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom and the litigation of crimes committed within Syria. Aiming to bridge the divide between […]

Justice and Accountability drowned in “Operation White Milk”

In mid-November, Austrian media shed light on a scandal involving Austrian authorities and the Israeli intelligence service Mossad. Leaked documents from, Austria’s national intelligence service (BVT) (the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Fight against Terrorism), reveal that the BVT made a deal, so-called “Operation White Milk,” with the Israeli Mossad by agreeing to […]

Consideration of a “Pooled Jurisdiction” Tribunal for Syria

The Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) has initiated a discussion with Syrian civil society groups about the creation of a Nuremberg-like tribunal for the prosecution of Syrian war criminals. While SJAC is generally supportive of all efforts that could bring a measure of justice and accountability for the atrocities committed in Syria since 2011, there […]

Obtaining Justice and Accountability: Recent Transitional Justice Developments

A number of recent developments regarding justice for Syrian war crimes highlight the need for a more comprehensive solution. These include an action likely to begin at the International Court of Justice, a criminal complaint in Germany, and an indictment of ISIS fighters in the U.S. Each of these actions has potential to achieve a […]

The “Beatles” on Trial: Obtaining justice for victims of foreign ISIS fighters

It is increasingly likely that two ISIS fighters, involved in the killing of several Americans, will be brought to trial in a courtroom in Virginia. The development comes as Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to the United Kingdom home secretary assuring her that the United States would not seek or enforce the death […]

Bashar al-Assad is Criminally Responsible for Syria’s COVID-19 Crisis

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Syrian government was playing a dangerous game. It initially refused to acknowledge that there were any cases of the disease in Syria, creating an environment of misinformation and fear that was useful in its fight against dissidents. In March, the government finally started to acknowledge that there were a […]

Turkey Has Opened the Door to the European Court of Human Rights for Syrian Victims

As most readers will be aware, Syrian victims of the nine-year conflict in their country have scant opportunities for justice. Russia has repeatedly vetoed efforts to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and we are left with a patchwork of trials in Europe under universal jurisdiction. To date, those trials have focused […]

UN Fails to Acknowledge Own Failures in Hospital Attacks Inquiry

On April 6, 2020, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a summary of the report issued by the Board of Inquiry (BOI) which he created to investigate seven attacks against hospitals and schools in Idlib since 2018. The BOI found it highly probable that “the Government of Syria and/or its allies” conducted most of the attacks, […]

SJAC to monitor first trial of Senior Government Official

A German court has scheduled the first hearings in the ground-breaking trial of a former Syrian government official and his subordinate for acts of torture, the first criminal trial worldwide on state torture in Syria. The Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany has scheduled the trial of Anwar R. and Eyad A. to commence on […]

How to Prosecute a Militia Mouthpiece

On January 29, 2020, former senior official for Jaysh al-Islam Majidi Mustafa Ne’ma (known by his nom de guerre as Islam Alloush) was arrested in Marseille, France. Two days later, he was indicted by the war crimes unit of the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance for torture, enforced disappearances, enlistment of child soldiers, and complicity […]

Syrian victims of Iranian crimes should not be overlooked

Foreign involvement in the Syrian conflict can be traced to every corner of the globe, including Russia, Turkey, the United States, and neighboring countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran. Although the Syrian government is responsible for the largest portion of violations, those committed or supported by foreign states should not be ignored. The recent […]

REPORT RELEASE: SJAC Unmasks Decision-Makers Behind ISIS Brutality

The ISIS Bureau of Justice & Grievances played a central role in the governance and decision-making of administrative, civil, and criminal matters, terrorizing local communities by facilitating the establishment of the organization’s draconian rule over parts of Syria and Iraq, said the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) in a new report published today. The […]

Myanmar at the ICJ – Is Syria Next?

The international community has been heavily criticized for failing to sufficiently respond to the plight of the Rohingya, Muslims who have been the subject of a campaign of mistreatment in Myanmar. However, last month, two important developments occurred. First, The Gambia filed a lawsuit against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and Aung […]

VIDEO: Return is a Dream

The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre’s report, ‘Return is a Dream,’ explores the history of property ownership and administration in Syria and examines property related crimes committed throughout the conflict. This video highlights the history, research, and recommendations on property restitution in Syria made by SJAC. Some of the recommendations outlined in this report include […]

SJAC Launches Universal Jurisdiction Guides

On September 4, 2019, SJAC launched its Universal Jurisdiction guides at an event at the House of Democracy and Human Rights in Berlin organized by SJAC in partnership with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and the Caesar Files Group. Legal practitioners, activists, and ordinary Syrians joined the discussion on the rights […]

Breaking the Cycle of Enforced Disappearances

On Friday, August 30, the United Nations will observe the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. For Syrians, this day serves as a stark reminder of the tens of thousands who remain missing after years of conflict. While widespread disappearances are a defining aspect of the present conflict, the Syrian government is responsible […]

Accountability for Chemical Weapons Attacks, Six Years After Ghouta

August 21st, 2019 will mark six years since the Syrian government attacked Eastern Ghouta with Sarin, killing an estimated 1,429 people, including at least 426 children. The attack gained international attention, and ultimately led to a joint US-Russian effort to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons program. However, this effort ultimately failed to stop the proliferation of […]

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 […]