Spanish court to investigate Syrian ‘state terrorism’ by Assad regime | Spain
A Spanish court is to investigate allegations that nine members of the Syrian regime 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 for the woman, known as Ms AH, argue that she is the victim of her brother’s enforced disappearance, torture and execution – and that Spanish courts have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the affair.
On Monday, Judge Eloy Velasco of Spain’s National Court accepted their arguments and ordered 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 International Chambers of Justice of Guernica, who represents Ms AH, called the judge’s decision important for all those who suffered in Syria.
“This is an extremely important decision not only when it comes to obtaining justice for victims, but also in terms of the need for national courts to investigate and try international crimes when the Court International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot,” she said.
“Judge Velasco’s decision is an extremely important step in the effort of certain European jurisdictions to create a commission of inquiry that will unite their efforts and allow 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 to refer Syria to the court.
Another of Mrs. AH’s lawyers – Maite Parejo of Madrid partners of Guernica 37, 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 facts, determine accountability and “bring justice to the thousands of victims of international crimes committed by the Syrian regime” over the past six months. years.
He says the evidence presented clearly shows that the Assad regime has committed acts of terrorism by using its security forces and intelligence agencies to punish the civilian population.
The lawyers say a national security plan designed to silence dissent and suppress protests has resulted in “a policy of mass arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and systematic executions”.
“As a result, tens of thousands of civilians were deprived of their liberty and transferred to detention centers where they were subjected to brutal torture methods and held in extremely overcrowded cells in conditions that can only be described as inhuman,” they said.