Conference: How to do Justice? Accountability for Mass Atrocities in Syria

Part 1: Crime, Perpetrators and those implicated in the conflict in Syria

Where can we begin to seek for justice in a war that sees violations of basic human rights committed by almost all conflicting parties? In our conference “How to do Justice? Accountability for Mass Atrocities in Syria” we invited panelists from different fields of expertise to find answers to this very urgent question. Watch here the first panel of the night examining crime, perpetrators and those implicated in the conflict in Syria where moderator Wolfgang Kaleck (ECCHR) is joined by Ambassador Andreas Krüger (German Foreign Office), Chris Woods (Airways) and the outstanding Lotte Leicht (Human Rights Watch), who gave an impressive insight into the gloomy human rights situation in Syria as well as chances for prosecution of war criminals.

Part 2: Survivors, lawyers and activists report from Syria

Without first-hand accounts of mass atrocities, the prosecution of war criminals would be hardly possible at all. Yet, taking about such traumatizing and degrading experiences takes a lot of courage and strength from those who were forced to endure them. In the second panel of our conference “How to do Justice? Accountability for Mass Atrocities in Syria” we had the pleasure to invite activist Khaled Rawas, one of the survivors of Assad’s prisons who gave a horrifyingly graphic testimony of the atrocities he and other detainees had to endure. He was joined by human rights lawyer Anwar al Bounni, who took upon himself the task to support victims of political violence in Syria until he was forced to flee the country after being incarcerated himself. Watch this panel discussion moderated by Antoine Nord (Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung)

Part 3: Universal Jurisdiction as a means of prosecuting human rights violation in Syria

In absence of an international tribunal – how to do justice? In the third and last discussion of our conference “How to do Justice? Accountability for Mass Atrocities in Syria”, Bente Scheller (Heinricht-Böll-Stiftung) moderates a panel of experts representing crucial international institutions aiming to establish universal jurisdiction as a means of prosecuting human rights violation: James Rodehaver (IICI Syria), Stephen Rapp (The Hague Institute) and Patrick Kroker (ECCHR) talk about perspectives from their international expertise while Syrian human rights activist Mazen Darwish adds an inspiring personal call for activism against the atrocities committed by the regime.

Quotes from Mazen Darwish

  • I hope to feel bad for my prison guards. I wish for them and for their children to have a bright that they share with my children. But it is impossible to imagine after all that has happened that there is a possibility to make peace in Syria without accountability and without an integrated path for transitional justice that guarantees the rights of victims.
  • If you really meant [the Universal Declaration of Human Rights], we have to limit impunity in general and in Syria specifically.
  • Human rights are not propaganda, it’s our humanity. It is what distinguishes us from animals. What distinguishes us is justice. If we deny justice, we deny our humanity. And this is the question everyone should think about: Are we actually human beings or are we just claiming to be human beings? And the test is in Syria.

Quote from Andreas Krüger

  • The violence in Syria is not a side effect of the war or the conflict. The violence in Syria is so to speak the very political DNA of the regime.
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