Enab Baladi – Saleh Malas
Criminal protection is one of the most effective types of legal protection within the framework of human rights. As the justice system is the primary instrument for addressing grave violations constituting international crimes against individuals, Syrian human rights organizations are pushing to hold specific actors in the Syrian conflict to account in an effort to continue to target perpetrators of human rights violations.
On July 14, the Syria Justice and Accountability Center (SJAC) published a report who looked at certain patterns of violations in order to identify specific sources of criminal activity. One such pattern relates to violations committed by Turkish-backed armed groups in Afrin, northern Syria, particularly those perpetrated by the Sultan Suleiman Shah divisional faction, also known as the al -Amshat, in the district of Sheikh al-Hadid.
The systematic nature of these violations called for a closer look at the impact of the crimes committed by the leader of the SNA-affiliated faction, Mohammed al-Jassem (Abu Amsha).
One of the most significant crimes investigated by the SJAC investigative team is the crime of “undue gain” in illegal practices that “generate revenues of more than US$30 million per year”.
Although there is extensive Syrian human rights activity to hold perpetrators of violations in Syria accountable, said violations continue to expand.
According to another report published by Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) in late June, Abu Amsha receives millions of dollars a year in three main ways, including illegal trade and investment through money transfer offices between Syria and Turkey in Turkish states, including Reyhanlı and Istanbul, and a real estate company in Kilis.
Abu Amsha’s ownership of investment projects in several different Turkish states may be a militant outlet for relevant organizations in Turkey to prove Abu Amsha’s criminal responsibility and hold him accountable if Turkish courts have jurisdiction over such crimes.
According to the head of the Free Syrian Lawyers Association, Master Ghazwan Koronfol, the basis of any legal action is the legal capacity and interest, that is, there must be a plaintiff who is aggrieved by the criminal act attributed to the adversary and therefore has an interest in prosecuting them with a view to obtaining justice.
With regard to the crime of “undue gain” of which Abu Amsha is accused by human rights organizations, it is important to know whether Turkish justice is competent to try a person who is not Turkish, especially since the crimes were not committed. on Turkish territory, according to Me Koronfol. It is important to identify the answer to this question before determining whether or not Abu Amsha could be tried.
In principle, there are two contexts in which Abu Amsha can be tried in Turkey, according to Koronfol; the first is that there must be a Turkish plaintiff or plaintiffs, or that the defendant must be Turkish, or that the crime or misdemeanors were committed in Turkish territory.
In the second context, if these conditions are not met, Abu Amsha must be present on Turkish territory, and the crimes he is accused of must undermine the national integrity of the country, such as drug trafficking, money laundering money, terrorism, trafficking in human beings or the management of groups of illegal immigrants. If one of these two cases exists, organizations can work to pursue it.
The last resort for human rights organizations in Turkey is the “principle of universal jurisdiction”. According to Koronfol, “Turkish justice may be able to make use of this principle in a slightly more restricted framework and conditions than some European countries, but it exists; it makes it possible to prosecute Abu Amsha for certain crimes qualified as crimes against humanity.
Human rights trials in Europe are based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which refers to legal frameworks allowing national justice systems to investigate and prosecute certain crimes, even if they were not committed by one of their nationals on their national territory or even against one of their nationals.
European courts are using universal jurisdiction laws to investigate allegations of serious crimes in Syria. While it is in principle preferable to administer justice in countries where crimes are committed, this is often not possible.
This principle undermines the notion of “safe haven”, which allows perpetrators to escape punishment, and makes strong reference to the nature and gravity of the main crimes.
The problem with putting Abu Amsha on trial in Turkey is that his existing business investments are not actually registered in his name, and this is a “fundamental point” of impunity, according to the Syrian human rights defender, Taha Ghazi, had said Enab Baladi.
Properties in Turkey, which are key pillars of Abu Amsha’s fortune, are listed in the names of people “in his close circle”.
Thus, according to Ghazi, there are no judicial possibilities for this issue according to the data currently available unless Abu Amsha resides in Turkish territory, even temporarily. However, even this option depends on the filing of a complaint by the Syrian victims, that is to say on the existence of a plaintiff to bring these crimes before the Turkish justice.
During this period, human rights defender Taha Ghazi is working with several Turkish human rights organizations to prepare an existing project to hold perpetrators accountable in all areas of Syria, regardless of military influence in these regions.
However, the problem that prevents accountability for Syrian human rights violations in Turkey is the lack of jurisdiction over such crimes. Therefore, “efforts are always made within the framework of the International Court of Justice”.
This project has documented 1,900 cases of human rights violations against Syrians registered with the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Its jurisdiction was to settle legal disputes between countries through judicial decisions and to issue advisory opinions on matters relating to international law.