Criminal prosecution without borders – Justice for crimes under international law in German courts
A discussion with experts and survivors
In April 2020, the Al-Khatib trial got underway in Koblenz, the world’s first criminal trial involving state torture in Syria. The crimes were committed in Syria, the accused are Syrians, as are the survivors. The fact that the trial is nevertheless taking place in Germany is made possible by the principle of universal jurisdiction. It allows the most serious crimes under international law to be tried regardless of where they occurred or the origin of the perpetrators.
Trials based on the principle of universal jurisdiction are sometimes – as the case of Syria shows – the only way to bring the most serious human rights violations to justice when this is not possible at local and international level. They are therefore extremely important to the survivors. At the same time, legal proceedings under the Code of Crimes against International Law (Völkerstrafgesetzbuch) represent a major challenge for German administration of justice.
- Claudia Roth, Vice President German Parliament, Alliance 90/The Greens
Panel I: Perspective of survivors in international criminal proceedings
Dr. Sarah Finnin, EU Survivors’ Rights Project Coordinator (FIDH)
Panel II: Practical experience and legal challenges in the prosecution of crimes under international law
- Joumana Seif, Syrian lawyer and women’s rights activist
- Dr. Patrick Kroker, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)
- Dr. Leonie Steinl, research assistant at Humboldt University Berlin
- Dr. Bente Scheller, Head of Middle East and North Africa Division (Heinrich Böll Foundation)
Language: Englisch and German (with translation)
Picture: Pieces of fabric with names and contact details of cellmates arbitrarily detained and disappeared by the Syrian intelligence service. The journalist and human rights defender Mansour Al Omari together with four fellow detainees used blood as ink and bones as a quill to write those names. Al Omari smuggled these fabrics inside his shirt out of a Secret service Detention center in Damascus. Three of his cellmates who helped him write the names died in detention later.
Project Coordinator Middle East and North Africa Division
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