Amnesty International Comment – Time for Global Leaders to ensure justice truth and reparations for Syria

In this brief comment, Amnesty International stresses that governments already have the legal tools at their disposal to end the impunity that has allowed hundreds of thousands of Syrians to be killed and millions more displaced, and that it is now time to put them to use: universal jurisdiction gives States the ability to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of responsibility for war crimes, including crimes committed outside their territory and without any involvement of their own nationals. ‘Today, more than 147 countries have provided for universal jurisdiction over one or more crimes under international law. Currently, European countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland are in the process of investigating crimes committed in Syria.’

Investigation – with the goal of gathering evidence for potential criminal and/or civil cases against perpetrators – is the first step on the road towards prosecution, which can be followed by recognition of the victims and the award of reparation. This author shares the hope of many lawyers and activists who work on behalf of victims of conflict-related violence, that universal jurisdiction may greatly expand the range of courts that can try international criminals and hear claims against them. This would reduce the possibility of suspected criminals finding safe haven within foreign jurisdictions, and increase the chance of victims receiving the recognition and reparations that are their right, according international law.