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Limited Community Outreach Blunts Impact of Accountability Efforts

A German court in the town of Koblenz this week will render its first verdict in a historic trial of two former Syrian officials for atrocities during Syria’s decade-long brutal armed conflict. The two accused in the case are an alleged former…
Photos of Syrians who have been detained or disappeared set up by Families for Freedom, as part of a protest in front of the court in Koblenz, July 2, 2020. 
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The Netherlands announced on Sept. 18 that it had notified Syria of its intention to hold that government accountable for torture under the United Nations Convention against Torture. The Syrian government responded by saying the Netherlands…
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Government Should Pursue Full Investigations, Fair Trials

The Australian government is taking an important step by helping eight Australian children of suspects of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) return home from northeast Syria. The children were held for months without charge under horrific…
Rusafa Central Criminal Court in Baghdad.
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Countries Should Account for Living and Dead in Syria, Other Wars

Today, the United Nations Security Council passed its first resolution on missing persons in armed conflicts, seizing a key opportunity to strengthen efforts toward uncovering the fates of those missing and giving closure to countless…
cover syria report
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The endgame of the war in Syria is likely to come down to the northwestern province of Idlib, on the Turkish border, where some 2.3 million people are now trapped. As Russian-Syrian forces now finish retaking the smaller southwestern…
A mother shows a picture of her son, who was detained by authorities in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, Syria, March 20, 2016. She has not heard any news about her son since then.
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Amid Ongoing Bombings, More Protection Needed for Education

In areas of Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Syria’s capital Damascus held by anti-government armed groups, schools have closed for fear that Syrian and Russian warplanes will bomb them. Instead, local residents have opened informal schools…
Children walk through the rubble of the Tamayuz (“Excellence”) kindergarten in the town of Hamouriyeh after it was hit by a Syrian-Russian airstrike on November 8, 2017. © 2017 Private
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Small Case in Sweden a Worthy Start

The photograph is disturbing. A young man in military fatigues is standing on dead bodies looking victorious. The posture of the Syrian soldier, with a grin suggesting pride and his military boot on a victim’s chest, suggests domination…
Stockholm District Court, where most of Sweden’s war crimes cases are adjudicated.
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Armed conflicts that have given rise to horrific war crimes in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and South Sudan are all beyond the reach of the ‘court of last resort,’ the International Criminal Court (ICC). But domestic courts in Europe are stepping into the void and…
Former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon
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Death of Detained Activist Puts Spotlight on Syria’s Ghastly Prison System

Yesterday Noura Safadi said that she had received confirmation that the Syrian authorities executed her husband, Bassel (Safadi) Khartabil, two years ago. Noura had been looking for Bassel since he disappeared from a Syrian prison in…
Bassel Khartabil
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Recent Attacks on Saraqeb Caught on Video

Videos and photographs taken last weekend in the city of Saraqeb, in northwestern Syria, show the unmistakably bright trails produced by incendiary weapons. The ZAB incendiary submunitions used in the attacks are delivered by RBK-500 bombs and contain…
Screenshot of a video taken in April 2017 in Saraqeb, northwestern Syria, showing the bright trails produced by incendiary weapons.
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Seeking justice for the ongoing grave human rights abuses in Syria has proven largely elusive. Now the shield of impunity is beginning to crack. Several countries, including Sweden, Germany, and France are in the process of investigating some…
Syrian Man Carries Children After Barrel Bomb Attack
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Refugees Assist Investigations in France, Germany and Sweden

As Bashar al-Assad’s forces ramped up their bombing campaign on rebel-held territory over the past year, his government may not have realized that they were cracking its shield against accountability for crimes committed in the Syrian conflict since 2011…
Shelters burning in Iqdah displaced persons camp near the closed Turkish border north of Aleppo after ISIS took over the camp on April 14.
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Video Footage Shows Incendiary Weapons Mounted on Russian Attack Aircraft

Several major media outlets are reporting that Russia’s state-run television has broadcasted footage appearing to show Russian aircraft at its airbase in Syria equipped with “cluster bombs.” The clip was deleted from YouTube after analysts published the…
Footage showing what Human Rights Watch arms experts have identified as RBK-500 ZAB-2.5SM incendiary bombs mounted on a Russian attack aircraft at a Russian air base in Syria, June 18, 2016.
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“Unimaginable Horrors”

The “unimaginable horrors” that the Islamic State (ISIS) is committing against the minority Yezidis, documented in a report released on June 16 by the UN-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Syrian Arab Republic, shows the…
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“Urban areas have become death traps for thousands of civilians,” says a new report issued by the United Nations Secretary-General ahead of the first World Humanitarian Summit, which opens May 23, 2016, in Istanbul. The report describes the widespread use…
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July 17, International Justice Day, is a reminder both of how difficult it is to bring the people responsible for the world’s worst crimes to justice and of how crucially important it is not to give up. Over the past two decades, trials for…
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Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry reported that President Obama had asked his top aides for new policy options to address the situation in Syria. Though Kerry didn't elaborate what exactly was under consideration, one option the White House hasn’…
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The political negotiations over Syria, now set to continue next month in Geneva, will be tortuous and lengthy at best, while the Syrian government and certain opposition groups continue to commit horrible abuses against innocent civilians. But that doesn’…
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For weeks, the Syrian Air Force had been bombing the Damascus suburb of Daraya. But on the morning of Nov. 16, 2012, something was different. An anti-government activist who filmed the attack told my organization, Human Rights Watch, that MiG fighter…