We the undersigned Syrian civil society and international organizations applaud the application instituting proceedings on the Application of the Convention against Torture (CAT) against the Syrian regime before the International Court of Justice by the Netherlands and Canada. The initiation of proceedings against the Syrian regime on State Responsibility for acts of torture complements continuing accountability efforts under Universal Jurisdiction. It also paves the path for further recognition of the Syrian regime’s State policy of torture Nevertheless, we express surprise and concern at the -3months postponement of the public hearings on provisional measures given the urgent need to address ongoing violations of the CAT.
For over four decades, and critically since 2011, the Syrian regime has systematically perpetrated torture and ill-treatment in flagrant violation of the Convention against Torture. In this regard, the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic previously indicated that “it is extremely rare to find an individual who has been detained by the Syrian regime and has not suffered severe torture”. The application submitted by the Netherlands and Canada reflects the experiences of torture and ill-treatment suffered by civilians at the hands of the Syrian regime, including by addressing specific forms of torture such as sexual violence and enforced disappearance, and referring to the use of chemical weapons as resulting in “severe physical and mental suffering”. On this note, Syrian civil society welcomes the inclusion of enforced disappearance in the case as the first instance in which the responsibility of the Syrian regime for enforced disappearance can be assigned in Court.
For over a decade, Syrian rights groups and civil society have been at the forefront of documenting violations in Syria and creating opportunities to hold the Syrian regime accountable for its crimes. In 2021 and 2022, State officials were found responsible for crimes against humanity of torture before German courts under individual criminal responsibility in the Anwar R. and Eyad A. cases, with an additional case against Alaa M. still ongoing. In 2023, the investigative judges of the Paris Judicial Court ordered the indictment before the Paris Criminal Court of Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan and Abdel Salam Mahmoud for acts of torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance against two Syrian-French nationals killed under torture by the Syrian regime. These cases have confirmed that acts of torture committed in Syria were not acts of lone individuals acting on their own, but, rather, were part of a systemic policy directed, approved and overseen by the highest ranks of the Syrian regime – amounting to crimes against humanity.