War crimes charges brought against Bashar Assad

A group of German lawyers have filed a criminal complaint against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Nov. 28, attorney Mehmet Daimaguler said they were optimistic the German federal prosecutor will open a formal investigation following their complaint. German law allows prosecutions under the principle of universal jurisdiction, holding that nations can charge foreigners for grave crimes committed abroad. The lawyers cited Amnesty International reports and individual accounts by asylum-seekers in Germany in arguing overwhelming evidence of multiple atrocities committed by Assad in Aleppo between April and November. "We're experiencing genocide in Aleppo in slow motion," Daimaguler said, citing the targeted bombing of hospitals, cluster bombs on civilians and forced expulsion.

Attorney Jens Dieckmann said there is sufficient information showing Assad bears responsibility for war crimes committed in Aleppo. "As a president, al-Assad is responsible for the entire actions of the government and the military policy," Dieckmann said.

Almost 18,000 Syrians have died in the Assad regime's prisons since 2011. The regime uses torture, beatings, electric shocks, and rape against prisoners on a "massive scale," Amnesty International said this year. In May 2015, the rights group said that the indiscriminate bombardment of Aleppo by the Assad regime amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The United Nations said Nov. 27 that the number of children trapped in besieged areas across Syria had doubled in less than a year to half a million. A report by UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, said the children were among hundreds of thousands of civilians in areas besieged by regime forces, adding that they had been "almost completely cut off from sustained humanitarian aid and basic services. The report said some of these areas have received little or no aid in nearly two years, despite repeated efforts by international relief agencies to provide food and medicine. "This is no way to live," the report said.

More than 508 civilians have been killed and 1,871 others injured since mid-November in regime and Russian aerial and ground bombardment in Aleppo. In the past 10 days, all hospitals and medical facilities have been put out of service because of attacks. Schools have also closed. (Syrian National Coalition, Nov. 29)

Even as Assad's regime has escalated to genocide, efforts to bring charges against him have been fruitless. In 2014, Russia vetoed a resolution to refer the Syria conflict to the International Criminal Court.