Four non-governmental organizations (NGOs) announced Monday, April 19, that they had filed a complaint in Sweden against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and several senior officials after two chemical attacks in the country. The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), Syrian Archive (SA), Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) and Civil Rights Defenders denounce Damascus’s responsibility for the sarin gas attacks on Eastern Ghouta, in 2013, and Khan Cheikhoun, in 2017.
Among those targeted are more than a dozen people including Bashar Al-Assad, the Minister of Defense, Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, or the president’s brother, Maher Al-Assad. Other high-ranking members of the Syrian regime and army as well as soldiers suspected of being directly involved in the attacks are also implicated.
The complaint is based on testimonies from victims, as well as “Hundreds of evidence, documents, including photos and videos” and an “In-depth analysis of the Syrian military chain of command”.
“The objective is that those responsible for these chemical weapons attacks are brought to justice”Civil Rights Defenders legal adviser Aida Samani told Agence France-Presse (AFP). “What we hope is that they [les autorités suédoises] open an investigation (…) and charge those suspected of these acts in their absence. “
According to her, such a decision would allow justice to issue a European arrest warrant to apprehend suspects if they entered Europe.
“Effective justice for victims and survivors”
The NGOs, which have also lodged similar complaints in Germany and France, also hope for collaboration between the three countries. “A joint effort by the authorities will increase the chances of a future European arrest warrant and effective justice for victims and survivors”, defended Mazen Darwish, director general of the SCM, in a statement.
The justice of these three countries has been seized in particular because of the existence of legal conditions allowing the prosecution of acts committed abroad, explained Mr.me Samani.
This new complaint was filed on the eve of a conference of member states of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which includes Syria. According to these NGOs, several states have submitted a project to deprive the country of its rights within the OPCW “In response to the continued use of chemical weapons”.
“The adoption of the decision would mean that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime has diplomatic consequences”, according to Eric Witte, political official at OSJI.
After the 2013 attacks, the Syrian regime pledged to dismantle its stockpile of chemical weapons. But, according to an OSJI and Syrian Archive report revealed in October 2020, Syria has a chemical weapons program “Always robust”, the Syrian power using “Stratagems” to deceive the OPCW.