Human Rights

NGOs file complaint in Germany over Syrian chemical attacks



Syrian Cartoonist Amani al-Ali shows one of her drawings, depicting a naked President Bashar al-Assad covering his lower torso with a chemical weapons hazard symbol, at her home studio in the city of Idlib on June 16th, 2019. [Omar Haj Kadour/AFP]

A group of NGOs said Tuesday (October 6th) they have filed a criminal complaint in Germany accusing President Bashar al-Assad's regime of using chemical weapons during Syria's long-running conflict.

The case, the first legal action over the alleged use of chemical weapons by Damascus, was filed on behalf of victims of the nerve agent sarin in 2013 and 2017, according to a statement from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM).

The attacks in Eastern Ghouta and Khan Sheikhun killed more than 1,400 people, including children, the SCM said in a statement.

"By gathering evidence and identifying witnesses able to provide testimony to prosecutors, the complainants aim to advance the eventual arrest and prosecution of Syrian officials responsible for the attacks," it said.

Germany's federal public prosecutor was not immediately able to confirm receipt of the complaint.

The Syrian government has been accused on numerous occasions of using chemical weapons, charges it denies.

Member countries of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) voted in July to take action on a probe that blamed Syria for nerve gas attacks for the first time.

Syria and Russia have dismissed the probe's conclusions, alleged that chemical weapons attacks were faked and accused Western powers of politicising the OPCW.

Several criminal cases have been launched in Germany over alleged war crimes in Syria under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

A group of Syrians who allegedly suffered or witnessed rape and sexual abuse in detention centres under al-Assad's government submitted a criminal complaint to German prosecutors in June.

In April, the first court case worldwide over state-sponsored torture by the al-Assad government opened in Germany.

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