Today, the Spanish National Court’s Judge Eloy Velasco, has heard the testimony of A.H., the victim of Spanish nationality whose brother was subjected to illegal detention and enforced disappearance in early 2013, whereupon he is alleged to have then been tortured and executed in a regime-controlled detention centre in Damascus. His lifeless body appears in several of the thousands of photographs of victims of the Syrian illegal detention centers taken by a military police officer under the pseudonym Caesar, who smuggled them from Syria in 2013. In January 2017, A.H. filed a criminal complaint against nine members of the security and intelligence forces with the legal assistance of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers and G37 Despacho Internacional.
This hearing marks the beginning of the judicial investigation and constitutes a landmark in the path towards accountability for Syrian crimes; it is the first time that a victim of the Assad regime has been able to offer her experience and submit her testimony before a Court of Law in the context of a criminal investigation.
MADRID (AP) — A judge in Spain has begun hearing testimony against potential war crimes by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.
The plaintiff, Amal Hag Hamdo Anfalis, is a Spanish national whose brother was allegedly abducted and tortured in the Syrian capital of Damascus, before being executed in 2013.
On Monday, she told National Court judge Eloy Velasco in Madrid that her brother was only a driver transporting nuts and dried fruits in his truck and that he had no involvement with the Syrian opposition.
She also explained how the family identified the victim’s body among photos smuggled out of Syria by a sympathetic forensic photographer. The photographer, codenamed Caesar, could testify before the judge next month, according to the plaintiff’s lawyer Maite Parejo.
Assad himself is not being investigated given his immunity under international laws, but nine of his close aids in the security and intelligence apparatus are, including long-time Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa and intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk.
The nine could face charges related to terrorism as well as for forced disappearance under Spain’s universal jurisdiction laws, according to the judge. Spain has previously taken up universal justice cases against foreign nationals although almost none gone to trial.
In spite of the difficulties involved, Parejo said the start of the investigation marked an important step in bringing accountability over the driver’s death and other crimes in Syria.
“Testifying before the judge is a form of reparation for victims, our client can feel that somebody is finally listening,” she said.
Spain’s is the first criminal investigation by a court anywhere in the world into potential war crimes in Syria.
Until now, Russia has blocked the referral of the Assad regime to the International Criminal Court.
This article, by Aritz Parra, was originally published on 10th April 2017 at Associated Press.
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