Syria: Nowhere to hide

Janet Anderson on the principle of universal jurisdiction that bridged the ‘impunity gap’ and led to the conviction of a Syrian war criminal

The World Today
2 minute READ

Janet Anderson

Hague-based journalist, Freelance

Some six million people have sought asylum in European countries over the past decade. A million of them are Syrians who fled the war in their country. Alongside the many victims of war crimes and torture seeking asylum are the alleged perpetrators of those crimes. 

One of them was a former intelligence officer who had committed crimes against humanity in Syria. In a German courtroom in Koblenz in January, Anwar Raslan was found responsible for 27 killings, 4,000 cases of torture and serious unlawful detention, one case of rape and two of sexual assault at Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate’s Branch 251 in Damascus. He was sentenced to life in prison.

While European states have jurisdiction over international crimes, this was the first case of a high-ranking official of Bashar al-Assad’s regime to be convicted under the principle of universal jurisdiction. A few factors made this possible. 

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