The Netherlands and Canada to bring case against Syria before International Court of Justice
Together with Canada, the Netherlands will be instituting proceedings against Syria before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment of its own population. This is the next step in a process invoking state responsibility that started in September 2020.
For some time now, the Netherlands and Canada have been pursuing justice for the many victims of the Syrian regime and seeking to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable. ‘Syrian citizens have been tortured, murdered, disappeared, attacked with poison gas or forced to flee for their lives and leave behind everything they had,’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra said. ‘These large-scale atrocities have been reported on extensively by international organisations. Establishing accountability and combating impunity are important elements of achieving a lasting political solution to the conflict in Syria. Bringing this case before the ICJ is a major next step on the long road to that goal.’
It is the Dutch government’s position that there is ample evidence demonstrating that Syria has committed serious human rights violations against Syrian citizens on a grand scale. This evidence has been gathered by various bodies, including the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, the UN’s investigative body for Syria. This is why the Netherlands decided to invoke state responsibility against Syria in September 2020; Canada joined this process in March 2021.
For over two years the Netherlands and Canada have attempted to reach a negotiated settlement with Syria, in line with the dispute resolution mechanism set out in the UN Convention against Torture. These talks have not led to a solution. In addition, Syria did not consent to the proposal for arbitration within the six-month period stipulated by the Convention. For this reason, it was decided to bring the case before the ICJ on 8 June 2023, in an effort to compel Syria to comply with its obligations under the Convention, to which Syria is itself a State Party.
Syria has been notified of this decision in the form of a diplomatic note from the Netherlands’ Permanent Representation to the UN in Geneva. The Netherlands and Syria have had no diplomatic relations since 2011, but they are both represented at the UN in Geneva.