The International Nuremberg Principles Academy organized an expert discussion at the European Court of Human Rights on the subject "No international justice for Syria – National proceedings as an alternative?" in the accompanying program of the exhibition "One Trial – Four Languages: The Pioneers of Interpreting in Nuremberg" in Strasbourg, France on 1 April 2019. The panel was composed of Academy Director Klaus Rackwitz, Deputy Director Dr. Viviane Dittrich and two expert practitioners, Christian Ritscher, Federal Prosecutor and Head of the War Crimes Section in the Federal Prosecutor General’s Office in Karlsruhe, Germany and Wolfgang Kaleck, a veteran human rights lawyer and Secretary General of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin.
Both experts informed the audience on the current proceedings in particular in Germany, where the Federal Prosecutor General’s Office currently conducts over 80 investigations into core international crimes, many of them allegedly committed in Syria and Iraq. These investigations have led to prosecutions and trials of alleged perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes before German courts. In a number of these cases, arrest warrants have been issued by the Federal Court, among them against the Head of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Service, Jamil Hassan. Although arrests and surrender of suspects remain a challenge, the freedom of movement of the suspects is limited and Interpol red notices have been issued.
Wolfgang Kaleck detailed the activities of the ECCHR in the field of the representation of victims and witnesses of grave crimes. Many victims have found refuge in Germany and neighboring countries. Both experts confirmed that at least during the time where no international accountability mechanism has been established, domestic investigations remain the most important tool in the fight against impunity for grave crimes against humanity and war crimes.