Dutch announcement to hold Syria accountable is welcome step on long road towards justice

Image: Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok. Wikimedia commons

September 18, 2020

The Dutch government today announced that it will hold Syria responsible under international law for gross human rights violations, especially torture. Syria has been informed of the decision by a diplomatic note, which is a first step in a series of steps that may lead to a case in an international court. Syrian partners of PAX welcome the Dutch initiative as an important step on the long road towards justice and hope it sets a clear signal that the international community is determined to hold those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria accountable.

Mariah al Abdeh, director of Women Now, emphasises the relevance of the Dutch initiative beyond Syria: “The absence of accountability of the main perpetrator, the regime in Syria, has opened the door for other actors to commit crimes. It is a message not only for Syria but it concerns all humanity. It is a message to all war criminals around the world.” She therefore calls on other countries to follow the Dutch example.

The Dutch initiative sends a clear signal to victims of torture and other crimes committed by the Assad regime that they have an ally in their pursuit of justice. PAX partner Ahmad Helmi, a survivor of the Assad regime’s torture and founder of the Taafi initiative that supports former detainees said: “It is an important step to move from political positions to practical action. It also is a clear step to counter the regime’s and Russia’s narrative that the conflict in Syria is over and to confirm relations with the regime cannot be normalised while the crime of torture is ongoing.”

Jalal Hamad from Justice for Life, a human rights organisation from Deir Ezzor, says: “The Dutch announcement supports the value of the evidence Syrian and international organisations and institutions have been documenting for years.” He hopes the Dutch step is the start of more international cooperation to hold Syrian perpetrators accountable and to serve justice to the victims.

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