UK lawyers file case against Assad regime at ICC

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal</p> <p>LONDON (AA) – A group of lawyers filed a case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, a statement said.

The case is being brought against the top officials of the regime, including Bashar al-Assad, on behalf of 28 victims who have been forced over the border from Syria into Jordan, said the statement by the law firm Stoke White.

The refugees are “currently staying in the Al Zaatari, Al Rajihi and Al Azraq refugee camps on the border between Jordan and Syria,” according to the statement.

“What we are trying to do is to highlight the crimes committed against these people in the right platform, that is the ICC,” Hakan Camuz, a representative of the law firm said in a news conference.

He said they have been investigating crimes against civilians in Syria for the past two years and they have “submitted all evidence collected to the ICC prosecutors”.

“The very people who actually committed these heinous crimes think they have somehow impunity,” he added.

Camuz said these issues have never been raised in 9 years in a legal way and they believe “this is an opportunity for justice to be served”.

Underlining that some of these people have been subjected to chemical attacks, rapes in prison, Camuz said they included the names of the regime officials including Assad and his brothers, as well as some of the generals of the regime forces.

– Crimes against civilians

The statement said: “Syria is not a signatory to the ICC Statute so it has not previously been possible to open a case against the Syrian regime.”

“However, using the recent precedent before the ICC of Rohingya refugees who have been forcefully deported from Myanmar to Bangladesh, the team of Lawyers, has argued that the same legal principle applies to Syrian refugees who have been forcefully deported into Jordan which is an ICC signatory,” it added.

The case will also “focus on the wider pattern of attacks and crimes against the civilian population in Syria including torture, rape, chemical attacks and disappearances in order to establish the full breadth of the systematic violations of which the deportations form a part”.

“In addition Stoke White represent 1,183 other Syrian refugees who have fled Syria to other countries including Turkey,” according to the statement.

“Their evidence will be relied upon to show the wider attack on the Syrian population,” it added.

Speaking in London on Thursday, Rodney Dixon QC, the lead lawyer in the case, said: “The ICC exists precisely to bring justice to the victims of these most brutal international crimes.”

“The devastating war in Syria has been going on for almost nine years now and no one has yet been held accountable for the hundreds of thousands of violations against civilians,” he said.

“This case represents a genuine breakthrough for the Syrian victims. There is a jurisdictional gateway that has opened up finally for the ICC Prosecutor to investigate the perpetrators who are most responsible,” he added.

– Testimony

The news conference included voice recordings from victims.

One of the victims from the Al Zaatari camps, who is not publicly identified, recorded her testimony, which was included in the communication to the ICC.

“I saw a lot of people being shot at by the regime forces, people were being randomly shot including my 18-year old nephew. Two other family members of mine were kidnapped and we never heard from them again. In 2012, my neighbor’s house was bombed and everyone living there died, ” one of the victims said.

“When I was living in Homs I was volunteering by providing medication and treatment to injured people. I attended to a lot of women who had been raped and abused by the regime forces. My volunteer work made me a target for the regime.

“We had to flee to a safer location, we went to Damascus. My eldest son was being forced to join the regime forces but he refused. He was taken away and brought back to our house a few days later, he was bruised all over and didn’t recognise me. He was bleeding and his clothes were torn…. We knew we had to leave again.

“I left with my four other children and we made our way to Jordan. It was a very difficult journey. I still haven’t heard from my son, I don’t know if he is alive or dead. The ICC must do something about this. We have suffered for too long,” the victim added.