War Crimes Survivors Turn to German Courts When International Tribunals are Blocked


Based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, German courts and investigators are taking on criminal cases that occurred outside German borders including the genocide of Iraq’s Yazidi minority and torture in Syria’s prisons.

According to a Syrian lawyer in Germany Joumana Seif, Syrians have turned to European courts because the international system is blocked. At the UN, China and Russia vetoed referring Syria to the International Criminal Court. Germany’s justice ministry can also block an investigation if it clashes with foreign policy considerations.

Seif said, “We applaud Germany. That really opened the path of justice for us, for the Syrian[s], after years of atrocity—everything happened. We can prove it in legal document, and that is very important.”

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