Crime & Justice

Top UN court demands Syria stop torture

The Hague, Nov 16 (EFE). – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Wednesday demanded that Syria “take all measures within its power to prevent acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

The order comes after Canada and the Netherlands filed a joint application in June to open proceedings against Syria for alleged violations of the Convention Against Torture.

The two countries reported enforced disappearances, sexual violence, and the use of chemical weapons in detention facilities in the Arab country since 2011.

“This is the first time that the Syrian state itself will be part of a judicial process, required to defend its abysmal record of violations of the Convention against Torture before international judges at the highest level,” said Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the UN Commission on Syria.

The court ordered “interim measures” that the Syrian regime is legally bound to apply as a signatory to the Convention Against Torture.

The ICJ also called on the government of Bashar al-Assad to take measures to protect all evidence of cases of torture, inhuman treatment and degrading behavior denounced by activists and members of the Syrian opposition for more than a decade.

However, Damascus left the seats reserved for its legal team at the court empty, publicly rejected the charges, and showed no interest in defending itself or acknowledging the process.

Syria also failed to appear at hearings on the case held in October at the ICJ, a court that does not try individuals for specific crimes, but rather resolves disputes between states over non-compliance with specific norms of international law, in this case the Convention Against Torture.

“Women, men, girls and boys in Syrian detention have been subjected to horrific sexual violence, including rape, threats of rape, sexual torture, abuse and humiliation,” said Commissioner Lynn Welchman about the case.

“The Court’s order today will mean a lot to them and their families, and they will expect the Government to implement it in full,” she added.

Although an order for provisional measures is legally binding on Damascus, the ICJ has no enforcement mechanisms for its rulings and compliance is left to the willingness of states to comply.

The Hague’s ruling comes a day after French justice issued arrest warrants for Bashar al-Assad, his brother Maher and two generals, Ghassan Abbas and Bassam al-Hassan, for the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians in the city of Duma in August 2013, killing more than 1,000 people. EFE


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