Syria: Statement on the Submission of a Criminal Complaint on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Germany

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

The Syrian Road To Justice statement

The undersigned 42 Syrian and international feminist and human rights organisations and 38 individuals and we welcome the filing of the first criminal complaint in Germany pertaining to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Syrian government-run detention facilities. Alongside seven Syrian survivors, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) filed the complaint to the German Federal Prosecutor jointly with the Syrian Women’s Network (SWN) and Urnammu – for Justice and Human Rights on 17 June. We would like to express our support to all survivors of SGBV and our full solidarity with the Syrian women and men who took this legal step.

As Syrian feminist organisations working in Syria can attest, SGBV is a common occurrence, yet incidents are often under-reported, individualized, and hidden. Moreover, according to the Human Rights Council’s report, “I Lost My Dignity”, SGBV against women, girls, men, and boys has been a persistent issue in Syria since the civil uprising in 2011. The Syrian state authorities and allied militias have perpetrated rape and sexual abuse of women, girls, and men during ground operations, house raids, and at checkpoints, and in official and unofficial detention facilities.

Given the documented systematic occurrence of SGBV during the ongoing conflict in Syria, this legal action is a critical step toward achieving justice for victims of SGBV, and we urge the German judicial authorities, already utilising the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, to broaden their investigation and prosecute such crimes as crimes against humanity.

However, a comprehensive investigation into SGBV crimes will require staff with sufficient gender expertise and experience to support survivors of SGBV. Without the right questions and expertise, survivors are not able to report their experiences in a safe and supportive way. Without this, investigations will miss the structural and endemic abuses being committed systematically across Syria. Investigations currently risk portraying sexual and gender-based crimes as isolated acts against individuals rather than as part of widespread attacks against a civilian population, and thus as crimes against humanity.

Survivors of SGBV, and particularly female survivors, are discriminated against in multiple ways, within social, economic, and political spheres to public and private life. They often face a lifetime of trauma, social discrimination (stigma), and gender-based violence (such as ‘honour’ crimes). Some experience violence and abuse as a result of their actual or perceived attack. As a result of this discrimination, many female survivors of SGBV choose to keep their stories to themselves and do not participate in the pursuit of justice, out of fear of a societal backlash. Moreover, due to insufficient specialised support and protection services for individuals pursuing justice avenues, many SGBV survivors refrain from taking legal action out of fear of reliving or exacerbating trauma.

In order to combat these barriers and enhance legal access to justice for survivors of SGBV, we address European member states, international justice mechanisms, and the Syria community at large with the following demands:

  1. Legal accountability for all international crimes that took place during the Syrian conflict, including sexual and gender-based crimes, and regardless of the perpetrators’ political affiliations.
  2. Gender-sensitive analysis for all international crimes committed in Syria from the beginning of investigations. This entails increasing female practitioners with gender expertise at every step of the litigation process in order to help survivors speak up for justice: More female police officers, criminal investigators, lawyers, judges, etc.
  3. Increased support and specialist services for SGBV survivors to ensure they are able to seek justice and hold the perpetrators of abuse to account.
  4. Awareness-raising and community-mobilising initiatives to tackle social discrimination (stigma) which causes greater suffering for SGBV survivors and prevents them from seeking justice.

As feminist and human rights organisations, we believe that transformative justice* for SGBV survivors will not only mean their perpetrators are held to account. Their fight for their rights extends beyond the courtroom to every home and street in Syria and beyond. Until survivors are given the care, respect, and support they need, international crimes will continue to go unpunished and basic humanity will fall short. For it is only through a transformative justice and accountability process that a lasting peace in Syria can be achieved.


  1. Amals Healing and Advocacy Center
  2. Badael
  3. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  4. Center for Intersectional Justice
  5. Civil Rights Defenders
  6. Dawlaty
  7. EuroMed Rights
  8. Families For Freedom
  9. Freedom Jasmine
  10. Garden Court Chambers
  11. Guernica 37
  12. Global Fund for Women
  13. Humans of Syria
  14. Impunity Watch
  15. Jana Watan
  16. Madre
  17. Mazaya Women’s Center
  18. Mwatana for Human Rights
  19. Open Society Justice Initiative
  20. Release Me
  21. Saneat Al-Taghyeer
  22. Souryana Al Amal
  23. Strategic Advocacy for Human Rights
  24. Syrian Female Journalists Network
  25. Syrian League for Citizenship
  26. Syrian Women’s International Initiative
  27. Syrian Women’s Network
  28. Syrians for Truth and Justice
  29. Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
  30. The Syria Campaign
  31. Urnammu
  32. Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling
  33. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
  34. Women Now for Development
  35. Women Survivors
  36. Zomoroda Women’s Center
  37. Zenobia Association for Syrian Women
  38. Musawa
  39. The Syrian Women Detainees
  40. Rousl Group
  41. Ogarit of Droit
  42. LebenFrieden


  1. Ahmad Malas- Actor
  2. Alissar Hasan- Journalist
  3. Amani Al-Ali
  4. Bayan Rehan- Human Rights Defender
  5. DialaBrisly- Artist
  6. Dima Nachawi- Artist
  7. Jihad (Jay) Abdo- Actor
  8. FadiaAfashe- Artist
  9. KhawlaDunia- Writer
  10. Edward Watts- Film Director
  11. Hamza Al-Khateab- Physician
  12. Joey Ayoub — Human Rights Activist and Writer
  13. JoumanaSeif- Human Rights Lawyer
  14. Laila Al Shami- Writer and Activist
  15. Laila Awad- Actress
  16. Lama Kannout- Writer and Researcher
  17. M-Sami AlKayial -Writer and Journalist
  18. Mariana Karkoutly- Human Rights Defender
  19. Maya El Ammar- Freelance Feminist Journalist
  20. Milad Amin- Filmmaker
  21. NajlaaKhamri- Actress
  22. NaserDanan- Physician
  23. RachaRizk- Musician
  24. Rasha Abbas- Journalist
  25. SoumaiaTaloAlolabi- Freelance Journalist
  26. Wafa Mustafa- Campaigner
  27. Waad Al-Khateab- Film Director
  28. Leila Al-Shami- writer & activist
  29. Sarah Khayat — Artist
  30. EyadAljarod — Director
  31. Mosab Al Nomire — Writer and Journalist
  32. Rachael Chadwick — Action For Sama
  33. Saeed Al Batal — Director
  34. Heaven Jackaly — Writer and Journalist
  35. Bu NaserTaffar — Writer and Musician
  36. Wael Kays -Writer and Journalist
  37. WaelKadlo — Filmmaker
  38. MalathAlzoubi -Journalist

*Identifies harm, allows for healing, demands accountability and transforms behavior

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