MESOP NEWS LATEST : Spanish court to investigate state terrorism case against Syrian security officials

By Rudaw 6 minutes ago – 27 March 2017 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A Spanish court will investigate a case against members of Syrian security and intelligence forces on charges of the alleged commission of state terrorism, the first such case against Syrian security personnel in a foreign court.

The decision of the judge of the Spanish National Court, Eloy Velasco, to admit the criminal complaint gives Spanish courts jurisdiction to investigate Syrian security and intelligence forces for “the commission of international crimes and human rights violations against the Syrian civilian population since March 2011,” reads a press release from Guernica 37, the law chambers representing the plaintiff, named as A.H.

The brother of A.H. was detained and disappeared in Syria in early 2013. He was subsequently tortured and executed. His sister identified him from photographs of more than 6,000 victims of Damascus’ detention facilities. Some 50,000 photographs were smuggled out of Syria by a forensic officer who defected and fled the country. In February, Amnesty International reported that as many as 13,000 people had been executed by the Syrian regime between 2011 and 2015 in mass, weekly hangings.

The decision out of Spain “brings hope to the thousands of victims of the Syrian conflict,” said Toby Cadman of Guernica 37, adding that this judicial process should set a future strategy for justice and accountability. “Ending impunity for atrocity crimes must be at the core of the peace process and this decision clearly reinforces that position,” he said. The public prosecutor had objected to investigating the case, arguing that the victim, the brother of A.H., was not Spanish and so the court did not have jurisdiction, Spanish paper El Mundo reported. Judge Velasco, however, decided that family members of those who have died or disappeared as a result of international crimes are equally victims of crimes under norms set out by the UN, the International Criminal court, and the European Court of Human Rights.

The judge requested Syrian authorities notify eight intelligence and security service members to appoint legal representation in Spain ahead of proceedings in the case, Reuters reported. A.H. and the forensic officer who smuggled out the photographs have both been summoned to appear before the court.  El Mundo stated on Monday that their reporter, Javier Espinsoa, who was kidnapped by ISIS in Syria in September 2013 and held for 194 days before being released, has also been summoned as a witness.