Lawyers Take Fight for Syrian Reparations to Dutch Courts


Lawyers in the Netherlands are preparing to bring at least four cases before Dutch courts seeking damages on behalf of a number of Syrian citizens for pain and suffering caused during the Syrian war, the latest European bid to bring a measure of justice to a conflict that has killed an estimated 500,000 people. They base their efforts in the principle of universal jurisdiction, whereby a state or international body can claim jurisdiction over the perpetrator of a crime regardless of where that crime was committed.

Ahmed Zien, an attorney at the Syria Legal Network, an initiative of the Netherlands-based Nuhanovic Foundation and the War Reparations Centre at Amsterdam University, said that he was collecting evidence and locating witnesses and potential suspects in the Netherlands. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague will have difficulty obtaining criminal jurisdiction over Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, unless instructed to by the United Nations Security Council, as Syria is not a member of the ICC. Zien also said that Chinese and Russian vetoes in the Security Council mean the creation of a tribunal in Syria “is impossible.”

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Balkan Insight