Justice Initiative Joins Statement Calling For Greater Accountability for Syria’s War Crimes Ahead of Major International Chemical Weapons Meeting
NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative has joined 14 other human rights groups calling for states to take greater action to ensure accountability for the Syrian government’s crimes against humanity, in advance of next week’s Conference of States Parties of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). At the meeting, which constitutes a pivotal opportunity to challenge Syria and Russia’s use of chemical weapons, member states will discuss a proposal from 46 states to suspend Syria's “rights and privileges” in the organization.
In a joint statement, signatory organizations urge states to take strong action to compel Syria to end its program of torture in government-run detention centers, release information on disappeared civilians, end chemical weapons attacks, and stop the targeted bombing of hospitals and schools. To pursue greater criminal accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the statement calls on governments to “explore individual and collective options to hold more perpetrators to account,” all while these atrocities are ongoing. In this regard, it urges countries to widen the scope of criminal jurisdiction by incorporating universal jurisdiction into domestic law where possible, ensure stronger victim and witness protection and support, provide sufficient resources for war crimes prosecutors, and consider the creation of a treaty-based tribunal for Syria.
In addition to the joint statement, signatory groups have led other efforts to advance accountability for atrocities in Syria. These include gathering evidence and representing victims in criminal cases on state-sponsored torture and supporting criminal investigations into chemical weapons attacks perpetrated by the Syrian government.
More than 300 chemical weapons attacks have taken place over the course of the decade-long Syrian war, of which the Syrian government is responsible for approximately 98 percent. Thousands of civilians have been killed by chemical weapons during the conflict, with the bombing of residential areas disproportionately impacting women and children. Just this month, Syrians commemorated two deadly chemical weapons attacks whose anniversaries took place in April: the April 4, 2017, attack on Khan Shaykhun and the April 7, 2018, attack on Douma.
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