Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spanish court to investigate Syrian 'state terrorism' by Assad regime

A Spanish court is to investigate allegations that nine members of the Syrian regime committed “state terrorism” by kidnapping, torturing and murdering a truck driver who disappeared in Damascus four years ago.

The landmark case – the first criminal complaint accepted against President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces by a European court – has been brought on behalf of the victim’s sister, a Spanish citizen who lives in Madrid.

Lawyers acting for the woman, known as Mrs AH, argue that she is the victim of her brother’s forced disappearance, torture and execution – and that the Spanish courts have the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the case.

On Monday, Judge Eloy Velasco of Spain’s national court accepted their arguments and ordered an investigation to be opened.

Details of the driver’s fate emerged after a Syrian forensic officer defected in September 2013, fleeing the country with more than 50,000 photographs. The pictures taken by Caesar – the pseudonym by which he is known – contain images of the bodies of more than 6,000 victims.

Among them were images of the tortured and dead body of Mrs AH’s brother, who was illegally detained by security forces in February 2013. His family learned of his torture and murder in a Damascus detention centre through the photos.

Lawyers for Mrs AH filed their complaint with the Spanish courts at the end of January this year.

Almudena Bernabéu, a partner at the Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, which is acting for Mrs AH, described the judge’s decision as significant for all those who had suffered in Syria.

“This is an extremely important decision not just when it comes to getting justice for the victims, but also in terms of the need for national courts to investigate and try international crimes when the international criminal court (ICC) cannot,” she said.

“Judge Velasco’s decision is a massively important step in the effort that some European jurisdictions are making to create an investigative commission that brings together their efforts and allows justice to be done in this terrible humanitarian crisis.”

Moves to bring Assad and his regime to justice have been thwarted because Syria is not a signatory to the ICC, and China and Russia have vetoed a resolution referring Syria to the court.

Another of Mrs AH’s lawyers – Maite Parejo of Guernica 37’s Madrid partners, G37 Despacho Internacional – said the judge’s decision represented an “extraordinary step in fighting against impunity in Syria and demonstrates the importance of the principal of universal jurisdiction when investigating international crimes”.

Mrs AH’s legal team says the Spanish courts now have the opportunity to investigate the facts, determine responsibility and “bring justice to the thousands of victims of the international crimes committed by the Syrian regime” over the past six years.

It says that the evidence submitted clearly shows that the Assad regime has been committing acts of terrorism by using its security forces and intelligence agencies to punish the civilian population.

The lawyers argue that a national security plan designed to silence dissent and suppress protests has given rise to “a policy of mass arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, torture and systematic execution”.

“As a consequence, tens of thousands of civilians have been deprived of their liberty and transferred to detention centres where they have been subject to brutal methods of torture and held in acutely overcrowded cells under conditions that cannot be said to be anything other than inhumane,” they said.

Original Article
Author:  Sam Jones

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