By Maria Elena Vignoli |email@example.com
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.