A group of lawyers in Germany is planning to launch a case against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for alleged war crimes committed by his forces and foreign allies in the Syrian province of Aleppo.
The lawyers on Monday presented a criminal complaint against Assad, which they are submitting to German federal prosecutors.
German law allows international prosecutions on the principle of “universal jurisdiction”, under which countries can pursue foreigners for crimes committed abroad.
|Government forces target makeshift hospitals in Aleppo
The lawyers cited reports from the human rights organisation Amnesty International and individual accounts by asylum seekers in Germany in arguing there is overwhelming evidence of multiple atrocities committed by Assad’s forces against civilians in Aleppo between April and November.
“We’re experiencing genocide in Aleppo in slow motion,” German attorney Mehmet Daimaguler said.
He cited the targeted bombing of hospitals, cluster bombs used on civilians, and forced expulsion.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad said in October the government’s siege and bombings of rebel-held east Aleppo constituted “crimes of historic proportions“, which have caused heavy civilian casualties amounting to war crimes.
He also said the case should be referred to the International Criminal Court.
The prosecution bid came as Syrian rebels who had controlled all of the east of the key northern city Aleppo lost a substantial portion of their territory to a major government offensive backed by Russian air strikes and foreign fighters.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Monday that Syrian government troops captured 10 neighbourhoods and more than 3,000 buildings from rebels in Aleppo.
The ministry said in a statement that more than 100 rebels laid down their weapons and withdrew from the Syrian city’s eastern suburbs. The ministry also said government forces had pushed the rebels from al-Qadisia, which it described as the “key neighbourhood of eastern Aleppo”.
The government’s push – backed by thousands of Shia militia fighters from Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran, and under the occasional cover of the Russian air force – has laid waste to Aleppo’s east.
Thousands of residents have fled to safety in government and Kurdish-controlled areas of the city.