It is time for an EU Action Plan on Impunity that underscores and gives new momentum to Europe’s insistence on justice for Syria
Our 16 organizations welcome the recent call by 27 members of the European Parliament for an EU Action Plan on Impunity with a specific chapter on Syria. Their letter to High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders reiterated a demand made in a March 11 European Parliament resolution.
Atrocities in Syria continue more than ten years after the regime of Bashar al-Assad launched a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protestors. The suffering of Syrian men, women, and children has been unfathomable, and the evidence of atrocities against them unparalleled in its breadth and quality. The Assad regime has been the worst offender: systematically disappearing, torturing, and killing civilians. With its allies, it has deployed illegal chemical weapons to indiscriminately kill and maim Syrian civilians and has deliberately bombed hospitals and schools. The regime and other fighting factions have perpetrated additional crimes on a widespread basis, including sexual violence and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrians.
This is not a matter of history. The atrocities continue. People are being brutally tortured in Assad’s prisons today. Today, the Assad regime is still using detention and enforced disappearance to terrorize civilians. The war has scattered Syria’s population. Around the world, distraught Syrians do not know whether to mourn or hold out hope for their disappeared loved ones.
The international community has taken modest steps to pursue accountability for the perpetrators of these crimes. Germany, France, Sweden, and a few other countries are trying perpetrators under universal and extraterritorial jurisdiction. This is the result of work by Syrian victims and survivors, their families, and Syrian civil society organizations. The investigations and prosecutions by national war crimes units have also been supported by the UN International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria (IIIM), and facilitated by the EU Genocide Network.
But the scale and nature of atrocities in Syria demand that more be done. An EU Action Plan on Impunity could help ensure more dedicated institutions and resources to support victims and survivors, hold perpetrators to account, and ultimately improve the prospect for long-term stability in Syria. Specifically, an Action Plan should include the following ten elements:
European countries have led the way in achieving some measure of accountability for atrocities in Syria. But as the crimes and suffering continue, it is time for an EU Action Plan on Impunity that underscores and gives new momentum to Europe’s insistence on justice for Syria.
Act for Syria
Civil Rights Defenders
Commission for International Justice and Accountability
Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights
Lawyers and Doctors for Human Rights
Open Society Justice Initiative
The Syria Campaign
Syrian Network for Human Rights
Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
Syrian Christians for Peace
Syrian Emergency Task Force
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom