Earlier this week, a group of 6 lawmakers filed a A. The criminal complaint accuses al-Assad of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Syrian city of Aleppo between April 24th and November 19th of this year. This move came after a recent, major government offensive, backed by Russian airstrikes and foreign soldiers, in which Syrian rebels lost substantial territory in Aleppo.
German law allows Germany to pursue foreigners for crimes committed abroad under the principle of universal jurisdiction. As evidence of the crimes committed by al-Assad, the complaint itself relies on Amnesty International reports and individual first-hand accounts of asylum seekers. In the complaint, over 50 incidents have been cited, including the targeted bombing of hospitals, humanitarian facilities, and residential areas, as well as the use of cluster bombs. It is argued that, as al-Assad is the President of Syria, he is, therefore, responsible for the actions of the government and the military. As commander in chief of the armed forces, he bears a direct responsibility for the crimes committed in Aleppo.
The German lawmakers are optimistic that the federal prosecutor will open a formal investigation into the war crimes committed in Syria. However, it is unlikely that the criminal complaint will amount to much. Instead, it is hoped that by opening up an investigation it will increase political pressure on al-Assad to resolve the conflict in Syria. There is also hope that it will encourage the collation of evidence should there ever be a case brought before the International Criminal Court.
Speaking to the press on Monday, attorney Mehmet Daimaguler said that “We’re experiencing genocide in Aleppo in slow motion,” and he is not alone in his opinion. In October, UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad said the government’s siege and the bombing of Aleppo constitute crimes of historic proportions. He has also called for a case to be put to the International Criminal Court. So perhaps the criminal complaint in Germany is the first step towards seeking justice for the crimes committed in Syria.