World Court censures Syria for torture

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague issued an interim order on Nov. 16 directing the Syrian government to "take all measures within its powers" to prevent torture. This development stems from a case brought by the Netherlands and Canada, accusing Syria of engaging in a prolonged campaign of torture of its own citizens. The court's order seeks to safeguard potential victims as the case proceeds. Syria is accused of breaching the Convention against Torture & Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the court's ruling, emphasizing the need to break the cycle of abuse and impunity in Syrian detention centers and prisons. Balkees Jarrah, HRW's associate international justice director, warned: "With systematic and widespread torture still a reality in Syria, the implementation of this ruling will be a matter of life or death for many Syrians in detention centers across Syria."

Although the court's orders are legally binding, the ICJ has to rely on the UN Security Council to enforce its decisions. If the council does not act, the orders may go unenforced, as in the 2022 case involving Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

From Jurist, Nov. 17. Used with permission.

Note: In addition to the torture case, there are numerous efforts to bring war crimes charges against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad

Syria issues limited amnesty, reducing sentences for some

Syria's president Bashar al-Assad issued a decree on Nov. 16 (Legislative Decree No 36-2023) granting amnesty for certain crimes committed before the decree was issued, subject to conditions. Judge Muhammad Eid Baloza announced that 350 prisoners in Damascus have been released under the decree as of Nov. 19. Last December, al-Assad issued Legislative Decree No. 24-2022, which granted a general amnesty for crimes committed before that Dec. 21. (Jurist)

Such measures are clearly taken to appease international opinion as the Assad regime seeks "normalization." Some 100,000 remain "disappeared" in Syria.

Netherlands police arrest Syrian for crimes against humanity​

Dutch police arrested a 55-year-old Syrian refugee Dec. 8 in the town of Druten, Gelderland province, on suspicion of crimes against humanity, including complicity in torture and sexual violence in Syria during the civil war. This is the first time that the Netherlands has accused someone of committing crimes against humanity.

The International Crimes Team (TIM) of the Dutch National Police investigated the man for serving as the chief of the interrogation department of the National Defense Force (NDF), a pro-government militia in Salamiyah, Syria, in 2013 and 2014. (Jurist)