Human rights lawyers take Syrian, Iranian war crime cases to international court


A group of lawyers in the US attempts to make Iranian and Syrian military officials answerable for war crimes they may have committed in Syria, before the international criminal court.

The US-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, in collaboration with British barrister Haydee Dijkstal, has gathered from Syrians forced to flee into Jordan as a result of attacks and intimidation by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and Iranian-backed militia groups, the Guardian reported.

The Syrian victims, including journalists, were targeted between 2011 and 2018 on the grounds of their professional activities, which were deemed by the Syrian regime as “opposition activities”, the IHRDC evidence showed.

The evidence being presented in The Hague says the Syrian civilians felt forced to flee in the face of bombardments, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest, and detention, along with other civil liberty abuses.

It adds that Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, attacked their towns and cities with the help of armed factions of the Syrian government.

The case would mark the first time Iranian officials had been made to answer for their actions in Syria, and forms part of an increased push for them to be held accountable for their alleged crimes in international courts. Ongoing efforts at the UN have stalled in the face of stiff opposition from Russia.

“Up until now, little public attention has been paid to the legal responsibility of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the decade-long Syrian conflict, despite the significant intervention of Iranian officials in Syria and perpetration of atrocities,” Gissou Nia, a lawyer on the legal team bringing the case, said.

“Iran has provided a vast range of military and non-military support to achieve its objectives, chiefly to prevent the fall of disgraced Syrian President Bashar Assad at any cost. Unfortunately, that goal has been fought at the cost of hundreds of thousands of killed, injured, and displaced Syrian civilians,” she added.

Syria is not a signee of the ICC’s Rome Statute, but the IHRDC said the court has jurisdiction in the case because the victims, who are predominantly Sunni Muslims and at odds with the Alawite Assad regime backed by Shiite Iran, fled into Jordan — a state party to the treaty.

In a previous case in 2018, the ICC was ruled to have jurisdiction over the Rohingya people after they were forced to flee into Bangladesh, a party to the ICC, from Myanmar, which is not a party.

The ICC will now have to make a preliminary decision prior to launching any investigation. There is no deadline by which the court must decide. (Source: Arab News)