Survivors Not Victims… Sexual violence related to the conflict in Syria and access to Justice for its survivors

Women and girls in Syria have been subjected to various types of violations, including killing, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, displacement, siege, and starvation policies that targeted them directly and indirectly. In addition to acts of sexual violence of various degrees by the various parties of the conflict, which was practiced by government forces.

Reports issued by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic have documented violations of sexual violence against men, women, and children by government forces and their paramilitary forces since February 2012 during house raids, at checkpoints, and in official and unofficial detention centers.

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria concluded that the International Criminal Court is the most appropriate judicial mechanism to address the phenomenon of impunity in Syria, which did not actually happen due to the objection of Russia and China.

However, due to the lack of ability to recourse to the national judiciary, which is currently completely affiliated with the executive authority responsible for violations, the judicial and quasi-judicial bodies that follow the de facto authorities in areas outside the control of the government; and because of the absence of a political solution, the basic condition to start reforming institutions and transitional justice programs, there remains no option for survivors except for heading to the national judiciary in countries that adopt the principle of universal jurisdiction.

A specialized team at the “Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression” collects evidence and testimonies about the committed violations to prepare files that are then held along with the victims in front of the courts according to the basis of universal jurisdiction. During the various stages, the privacy of the complainant (the survivor) is preserved in the process of documenting testimonies and preserving information while preserving the safety and psychological health of the victims. Since 2017, the center has been working on numerous judicial cases to put the violations committed in Syria on trial in several European countries, such as Germany, France, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. International arrest warrants were issued in some of them against senior Syrian security officials on the background of their accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The center also works with offices specialized in war crimes and public prosecution on other cases, including ones related to crimes of sexual violence committed in Syria.

This booklet is redacted by the program “Justice and the State of Law” by the “Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression” and in collaboration with The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

The program “Justice and the State of Law” works to ensure respecting human rights, combating impunity, and enabling victims to access justice through multiple paths. In 2016, The strategic litigation project began, It filed cases to national judicial authorities against rights violators and perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Syria by using the principle of universal jurisdiction in European countries now and in other countries in the near future.

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