A Spanish court is due to investigate allegations that nine members of the Syrian regime have committed “state terrorism” by kidnapping, torturing and murdering a truck driver who disappeared in Damascus four years ago.
The landmark case – the first criminal complaint accepted against President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces by a European court – was brought on behalf of the victim’s sister, a Spanish citizen who lives in Madrid.
Lawyers acting for the woman, known as Ms AH, say she is the victim of her brother’s enforced disappearance, torture and execution – and that Spanish courts have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the ‘case.
On Monday, Judge Eloy Velasco of the Spanish National Court accepted their arguments and ordered the opening of an investigation.
Details of the driver’s fate emerged after a Syrian forensic officer defected in September 2013, fleeing the country with more than 50,000 photographs. The photos taken by Caesar – the pseudonym by which he is known – contain images of the bodies of more than 6,000 victims.
Among them were images of the tortured and dead body of Ms. AH’s brother, illegally detained by security forces in February 2013. Her family learned of her torture and murder in a Damascus detention center through the photos.
Ms AH’s lawyers filed their complaint with the Spanish courts at the end of January this year.
Almudena Bernabéu, associate of the 37 chambers of international justice in Guernica, who represents Ms AH, called the judge’s decision important for all those who have suffered in Syria.
“This is an extremely important decision not only when it comes to obtaining justice for the victims, but also in terms of the need for national courts to investigate and try international crimes when the Criminal Court international (ICC) cannot, ”she said.
“Judge Velasco’s decision is an extremely important step in the effort that certain European jurisdictions are making to create a commission of inquiry that unites their efforts and allows justice to be done in this terrible humanitarian crisis.
Moves to bring Assad and his regime to justice have been thwarted because Syria is not a signatory to the ICC, and China and Russia have vetoed a resolution sending Syria to court.
Another lawyer of Mrs AH – Maite Parejo from the associates of Guernica 37 in Madrid, G37 Despacho Internacional – said the judge’s decision represented an “extraordinary step in the fight against impunity in Syria and demonstrates the importance of the principle of universal jurisdiction in the investigation of international crimes.”
Ms AH’s legal team says Spanish courts now have the ability to investigate the facts, determine responsibility and “bring justice to the thousands of victims of international crimes committed by the Syrian regime” over the past six years. years.
He says the evidence submitted clearly shows that the Assad regime has committed acts of terrorism by using its security forces and intelligence agencies to punish the civilian population.
Lawyers argue that a national security plan designed to silence dissent and suppress protests has resulted in “a policy of mass arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and systematic execution.”
“As a result, tens of thousands of civilians have been deprived of their liberty and transferred to detention centers where they have been subjected to brutal methods of torture and held in extremely overcrowded cells in conditions which can only be described as harsh. ‘inhuman, “they said.