Europe Using Refugee Testimonies to Build Iraq and Syria War-Crime Cases
European authorities are requesting help from refugees fleeing conflicts in Iraq and Syria in order to build a case against individuals accused of committing war crimes in their home countries.
Officials in the Netherlands and Germany have been passing out leaflets to refugees upon their arrival in the respective countries inviting them to provide testimony about any atrocities they have witnessed. In Germany, prosecutors have already compiled hundreds of testimonies regarding atrocities committed during the Syrian conflict.
The cases will be brought before a select number of European courts that have the power to prosecute international war crimes committed anywhere in the world, including genocide.
However, according to European law, the individual accused of carrying out the crime cannot be prosecuted until they have entered the E.U.’s jurisdiction.
“Over the next five years you’ll see a lot of prosecutions,” says Matevz Pezdirc of the European Union’s Genocide Network. “You may have lots of victims or witnesses in one place, but you can’t move with a prosecution until you have a perpetrator in your jurisdiction.”
After Idomeni, Greece Considering Additional Evacuations
Following the evacuation of Greece’s largest refugee camp in Idomeni this week, a further clearout of smaller makeshift camps by authorities looks imminent.
More than 700 Greek police began the evacuation of the Idomeni camp on Monday, with the majority of its residents dispersed to smaller, official camps. Immigration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said that the crowded Elliniko camp outside Athens, the nation’s capital, is next on the list of evacuations, according to E. Kathimerini news.
“Conditions at Elliniko are not unsuitable, but they are not good and certainly not the conditions we should have for refugees and migrants,” he told the Greek parliament, adding that clearing the camp “is a priority.”
Some 8,400 people have been living in the camp at Idomeni, on the border with Macedonia, after the neighboring country closed its borders in March.
Since Monday, nearly 4,000 refugees have been removed from the camp while another 3,000 left voluntarily before they could be evacuated. Those who fled the camp are now pitching tents outside a nearby gas station and in an abandoned field, according to Reuters.
“There is no place for us and there is not enough food and aid and medicine. People are cramped on top of each other and, at the same time, there are the same problems as the previous camp,” a Syrian refugee, who fled Idomeni before the evacuation, told Reuters. “I don’t want to go and get squeezed among people, and in the end, we still don’t know what our fate will be.”
Human Rights Group Condemns E.U. Over Unaccompanied Minor Detentions
Council of Europe, one of Europe’s leading human rights groups, said holding unaccompanied minors in detention centers upon their arrival to the E.U. is “unacceptable.”
“It is unacceptable from our point of view that minors, unaccompanied children, are in detention places. They should be in places like this,” Council of Europe secretary general Thorbjorn Jagland said after he met with several children currently housed in a detention center in Athens, Greece, according to the Associated Press.
Unaccompanied children arriving in Europe can apply to be reunited with their families providing they have already arrived on the continent. But, as with the asylum process, this can be a complicated and lengthy procedure.
The Council of Europe urged European leaders to house children in special facilities with the focus on reuniting them with their families instead of passing legislation that makes this harder to accomplish.
- BBC: Syria War: Battling on as a Disabled Refugee
- IRIN News: The World Humanitarian Summit: Winners and Losers
- The Washington Post: Closing the World’s Largest Refugee Camp in Kenya Could Fan the Flames of Terrorism
- IRIN News: Why the E.U. Migration Deal with Sudan is So Dodgy
- Middle East Eye: As Refugee Numbers Soar, Aid Shortfall Suggests the World Doesn’t Care