Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction


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Justice for Syria in Swedish and German Courts: Possibilities and Challenges

By Maria Elena Vignoli |vignolm@hrw.org

For the past six and a half years, the world has witnessed atrocities committed in Syria in a climate of impunity by all parties to the conflict. The route to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the key international forum for accountability, is currently blocked. In 2014, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have given the ICC prosecutor a mandate to investigate and prosecute serious crimes committed in Syria, and there are no indications that they would vote differently today. At the same time, with the conflict still raging, the option of bringing proceedings before Syrian courts is not viable.

In this bleak landscape for accountability, some small steps toward justice are under way in Europe. Several countries are investigating serious crimes committed in Syria since 2011. These investigations are made possible by the international law principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows authorities to pursue certain crimes because of their gravity, regardless of where they were committed, or the nationality of either the victim or the suspect. In addition, the large number of Syrians who have come to Europe, mainly as refugees, since 2015 means that victims, witnesses, material evidence and even some suspects are now within the reach of the European authorities.

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The Right to Housing and its Applicability to Asylum Seekers in Europe

By Mareike Hoffmann | s.m.hoffmann@student.rug.nl

Despite its crucial importance for emotional and physiological well-being, the right to housing is often treated as a ‘poor cousin’ in comparison to other necessities.[i] Pointing out the emerging trend to limit the right to housing, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Housing has gone as far as naming it as ‘one of the most endangered rights.’ Asylum seekers are especially at risk of having their right to housing restricted since they essentially rely on the state for the provision of housing. Following the influx of asylum seekers to Europe since 2015, the issue of accommodating them adequately persists to this day. Nevertheless, the right to adequate housing is part of the right to an adequate standard of living and thereby included in a wide array of international human rights instruments. Within this blog post, I aim to identify the relevant human rights provisions applicable to asylum seekers and subsequently analyse the flaws of the current system.

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