Syrian torture survivors file a criminal complaint in Norway


Senior intelligence officers at the Syrian government accused of torture
Syrian torture survivors file a criminal complaint in Norway

Oslo, 12 November 2019 – Trials and investigations in Europe can pave the way to end impunity for grave crimes committed by the Syrian government. Five torture survivors filed criminal charges, including crimes against humanity, against 17 senior officials of the Syrian government on 11 November in Oslo. The crimes detailed in the complaint occurred in 14 detention facilities throughout Syria and were carried out by officials connected to the Military Intelligence, General Intelligence and Political and Criminal Security divisions.

In Germany, the first trial worldwide on state torture in Syria is expected to start in 2020, following the indictment of two former officials of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate on 22 October 2019. Similar investigations and legal proceedings are ongoing in France, Sweden and Austria.

“I want those responsible for Assad’s torture system to stand trial. I joined this criminal complaint in Norway, because in my own country there is no prospect to achieve accountability. Investigations in Europe will send an important signal to Syria: No one, not even high-ranking officials, are above the law,” said one of the plaintiffs. He* was detained by the Syrian General Intelligence and subjected to different means of torture.

Another plaintiff, a woman* who was detained three times, added, “When I left prison in 2013 I was nothing but a body full of scars. I’m still struggling with the consequences of the torture. Taking legal action is my way to raise the voice of all the other Syrian women suffering the same, even today, in Assad’s prisons. I’m confident that the Norwegian authorities will initiate investigates to help to hold those responsible to account.”

The plaintiffs filed the complaint together with the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), and Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Syrian Center for Legal Research and Studies (SCLRS), and the Caesar Files Group (CFSG). The organizations, whose legal research and analysis forms the basis of the criminal complaint, have been working closely with the plaintiffs over the last months.

Like in other European countries, the legal action in Norway is based on the principle of universal jurisdiction. The aim of the criminal complaint – the individual cases of which are exemplary for the system of torture under the Syrian government – is for the Norwegian judiciary to investigate the 17 intelligence officials and issue international arrest warrants.

*The witnesses’ names will not be published for security reasons.

SCM, Waha Laila: Tel: +49 (0) 178 3094080, E-Mail: [email protected]
ECCHR, Anabel Bermejo: Tel: +49 (0)172 587 00 87, E-Mail: [email protected]
NHC, Emil Andre Erstad: Tel: +47 92294594, E-Mail: [email protected]