Lawyers are pushing forward with a criminal case against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Germany over claims of war crimes committed in Aleppo. The case was submitted to German federal prosecutors as a criminal complaint against Assad on Monday (28 November).
Lawyers cited individual accounts by asylum seekers in Germany as well as Amnesty International reports and studies. They argue that there is strong evidence of many atrocities committed by Assad between April and November 2016 in the besieged city of Aleppo.
In 2015, Amnesty International reported that Assad's forces had "held thousands of detainees without trial, often in conditions that amounted to enforced disappearance".
"We're experiencing genocide in Aleppo in slow motion," said attorney Mehmet Daimaguler on 28 November. He was referring to the bombing of civilians and the specific targeting of hospitals.
Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, Daimaguler said the lawyers felt positive that the federal prosecutor would open a formal investigation.
"The incidents in Aleppo are well documented by international observers, by the UN and the Human Rights Watch," Daimaguler said, adding that they have documented nearly 50 incidents, including airstrikes that targeted residential areas, hospitals and humanitarian facilities, based on reports from reliable sources and statements of witnesses.
Attorney Jens Dieckmann said there was sufficient information showing Assad bore responsibility for war crimes committed in Aleppo. In the past two weeks, hospitals and medical facilities have stopped operations because of bombing raids, and school activities have also been halted.
"As a president, al-Assad is responsible for the entire actions of the government and the military policy," Dieckmann said, according to Andalou Agency. Since Assad is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he bore direct responsibility for the crimes committed in Aleppo.
Germany's "code of crimes against international law" allows the filing of lawsuit against suspects of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed abroad.
In October, UN human rights chief Zied Ra'ad said the government's tactics of bombings had led to many civilian casualties which amounted to war crimes. He condemned the sustained attacks on rebel-held east Aleppo as "crimes of historic proportions" and said the case should be taken up by the International Criminal Court.