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Canada and the Netherlands Raise Syria Torture Claims with International Court of Justice

June 13, 2023
The headquarters of the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Courtesy of the Court.

Canada and the Netherlands have instituted proceedings against Syria at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the main judicial organ of the United Nations, claiming that Syria violated the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

According to a press release issued by the ICJ on 2 June, the applicant states claim that Syria has committed human rights violations that “include the use of torture” during its bloody civil war. The two states also referenced the use of chemical weapons.

The Convention against Torture states that any dispute “concerning the interpretation or application” of the treaty which cannot be settled by negotiation shall go to arbitration—legally-binding dispute settlement—and if the arbitrating body cannot be agreed upon within six months, then the dispute may be referred to the ICJ.

Canada and the Netherlands have already taken the necessary steps before referring the case to the ICJ, having approached Syria with the matter in 2021.

If successful, this case would be the first of its kind brought against Syria at the ICJ.

Germany had convicted a Syrian general, Anwar Raslan, for torture in its own national court system in January.

The move by Canada and the Netherlands comes after Arab states welcomed Syria back to the fold in the Arab League summit in May.

At least 15 thousand civilians were killed due to torture in the Syrian Civil War, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR). The Network says over 230 thousand civilians have been killed since the beginning of the conflict.

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