Cases brought against loyalists of the Bashar Assad regime, who have engaged in violence and inflicted atrocities for a decade, are growing in Europe.
In the latest case, a court in the German city of Koblenz on Thursday is likely to rule on the case of a former Syrian intelligence agent, Anwar Raslan, who is accused of crimes against humanity, for which prosecutors are demanding a life sentence.
In February 2021, the court jailed a lower-ranking former Syrian intelligence agent, Eyad al-Gharib, for being an accomplice to crimes against humanity in the world's first prosecution over abuses.
Germany has used the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity, including war crimes and genocide, regardless of where they were committed, after receiving complaints from Syrians who claim to have been tortured in jails.
In March 2017, seven Syrian torture survivors and a human rights group filed a criminal complaint in Germany against Syrian secret service officials.
Later the same year, nearly 27,000 photos taken by a former Syrian military photographer known as Caesar, who documented torture and death in regime jails, were also turned over to German courts, according to the German rights group, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).
In November 2017, the ECCHR announced that 13 Syrians had filed two new complaints about crimes against humanity and war crimes over alleged acts of torture.
Seven other Syrian men and women, who claimed to have suffered or witnessed the rape and sexual abuse at Assad's detention centers, also submitted a complaint to German prosecutors, the group revealed in June 2020.
They named nine senior government and air force intelligence officials in their complaint, including top Syrian intelligence official Jamil Hassan, who is already on an international arrest notice.
The trial of a Syrian doctor accused of torture, murder and crimes against humanity starts on Jan. 19 in Frankfurt.
In September 2015, a prosecutor in Paris opened a preliminary inquiry against the Assad's regime for crimes against humanity over allegations of abduction and torture.
The following July, the family of a Syrian doctor who died in a government prison lodged a complaint in Paris over his torture and murder.
Another French court opened an investigation in 2016 into the disappearance of Mazen Dabbagh and his son Patrick, two French-Syrian nationals who had been arrested in Syria three years earlier.
France issued its first international arrest notices for Syrian intelligence officials in 2018 for "complicity in acts of torture" related to the case as well as "complicity in crimes against humanity" and "complicity in war crimes."
The warrants were for National Security Bureau director Ali Mamluk, Air Force Intelligence chief Jamil Hassan and Abdel Salam Mahmoud, who was in charge of the Damascus branch of the Air Force Intelligence investigative branch.
In April 2021, three nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that had lodged civil complaints managed to get the chemical attacks case in 2013 probed accusing the Syrian regime to be behind it. The case, already filed in Germany, was lodged on behalf of victims of the 2013 attack and a 2017 attack using sarin gas.
In December 2021, a Franco-Syrian man was jailed, suspected of providing material to the Syrian army that could be used to make chemical weapons.
It is the first time someone had been found charged in France for supporting Assad's troops, judicial officials said.
In July 2017, a Spanish court rejected a complaint filed by a Spanish woman of Syrian descent against nine Syrian regime officials over forced detention, torture and alleged execution of her brother in 2013.
Legal proceedings have also been initiated in Austria, Norway and Sweden, which in 2017 was the first country to sentence a former soldier for war crimes.
In Sweden, four NGOs lodged a complaint in April 2021 against Assad and several top officials after two chemical attacks in 2013 and 2017.
In 2016, the United Nations set up its International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, preparing a war crimes charge sheet against individuals over the Syrian conflict.
Since April 2021, the organization has been gathering evidence for use in possible future trials.
For years, the Assad regime has ignored the needs and safety of the Syrian people, only eyeing further territory gains and crushing the opposition. With this aim, the regime has for years bombed civilian facilities such as schools, hospitals and residential areas, displacing almost half of the country's population.
Furthermore, Syrians that fled the war in their country years ago often face oppression when returning to their homes.
In a report published last year, Amnesty International said that many Syrian refugees who returned home have been subjected to detention, disappearance and torture at the hands of Syrian security forces, proving that it still is not safe to return to any part of the country.
In the report entitled “You’re going to your death,” the rights group documented what it said were violations committed by Syrian intelligence officers against 66 returnees, including 13 children between mid-2017 and the spring of 2021. Among those were five cases in which detainees had died in custody after returning to the country ravaged by civil war, while the fate of 17 forcibly disappeared people remains unknown.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) similarly reported on the oppressions Syrians face after returning to the country.
A report titled “Our Lives Are Like Death: Syrian Refugee Returns from Lebanon and Jordan” documented “grave abuse” at the hands of regime-affiliated government forces against 65 returnees and their family members between 2017 and 2021. Of the 65, 21 faced arrests and arbitrary detention, 13 said they were tortured, and five cases of extrajudicial killings were recorded, the report said. There were also accounts of 17 enforced disappearances, three kidnappings and one alleged sexual violence case.