A groundbreaking attempt to hold Iranian and Syrian military officials accountable for war crimes they may have committed in Syria is launched, as part of an attempt to take the cases to the International Criminal Court.
The request includes evidence of Syrian victims forced to flee to Jordan due to attacks and intimidation by the Syrian government and Iran-backed militias. It is presented by the Iranian Center for Human Rights Documentation, based in the United States, in collaboration with Haydee Dijkstal, a British lawyer.
The victims, including Syrian journalists, were targeted between 2011 and 2018 because of their professional journalistic activities and their real and perceived opposition activities. They hail from predominantly Sunni towns in Syria that Assad’s Alawite regime and the Shia Islamic Republic of Iran, which backed numerous militias in Syria, saw as opposites.
This is the first time that Iranian officials have been targeted in this way for their activities in Syria, and is part of a growing effort to hold Syrian army officers and others legally accountable. of their actions before the ICC or before European national courts, including in Germany and France. Progress on the issue at the UN is largely impossible due to the threat of a Russian veto.
Gissou Nia, a lawyer from the legal team behind the request, said: “So far, little public attention has been given to the legal responsibility of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Syrian conflict. which has been going on for a decade, despite significant Iranian intervention. officials in Syria and the perpetration of atrocities.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has provided a wide range of military and non-military support to achieve its goals, primarily to prevent the fall of disgraced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at all costs. Unfortunately, this goal has been achieved at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians killed, injured and displaced. »
Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, but it is claimed that the ICC has jurisdiction because the victims fled to Jordan, which is a state party.
Evidence was provided anonymously for fear of reprisals, but the identity of the complainants will be known to the ICC, which must now make a preliminary decision before opening an investigation. There is no deadline by which the ICC must rule.
Syrian civilians, it says, felt compelled to flee in the face of indiscriminate shelling and shooting, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, beatings and other abuses, search operations and violent repression of the right to freedom of expression, including civilian journalists and activists. . It says Iran-backed militias including Lebanese Hezbollah, Liwa Fatemiyoun (an IRGC-led Afghan Shia militia) and Liwa Abu Fadl Al-Abbas (LAFA) attacked their towns and cities alongside armed forces of the Syrian government.
Evidence submitted to the ICC on Wednesday shows how Syrians were forced to leave their homes and families, and were unable to return to their country.
Article 7(1)(d) of the Rome Statute grants the Court jurisdiction over the crime against humanity of “deportation or forcible transfer of population”, i.e. the “forcible displacement of persons affected by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area where they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted by international law”.
In a previous case in 2018, the ICC found it had jurisdiction over the Rohingya when they were forced to flee to refugee camps in Bangladesh from Myanmar. Bangladesh, unlike Myanmar, is a party to the ICC.