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UN court orders Syria regime to prevent torture, preserve evidence

November 20, 2023 at 8:20 pm

Judge Joan E. Donoghue, President of the International Court of Justice speaks during the press briefing as Philippe Gautier, Registrar of the ICJ attended at UN Headquarters on October 23, 2023 [Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images]

The top court of the United Nations has ordered Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria to ensure the prevention of torture and the protection of evidence, amid an ongoing international legal case against Damascus.

According to the Associated Press, the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) President, Joan E. Donoghue, on Thursday, cited its panel as ordering the Syrian regime to “take all measures within its power to prevent acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The court further called on Syria to “ensure that its officials, as well as any organisations or persons, may be subject to its control, direction or influence do not commit any acts of torture or other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

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It also ordered that the government “take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of any evidence related to the allegations of acts within the scope” of the UN’s convention against torture.

The court’s order comes amid the ongoing case filed by the Netherlands and Canada this year accusing Damascus of an extensive campaign of torture against Syrian citizens over the years. Both countries, last month, urged the court to order the torture ban, with Canadian government lawyer, Teresa Crockett, warning during a hearing that “If left unchecked, Syria will continue its violations” of the international ban on torture.

The UN’s interim order aims to protect potential victims in Syria while the case regarding Syria’s breaching of the torture convention continues to proceed through the ICJ and could take years. Although such orders are binding upon the relevant member states, they are often ignored and neglected, and would likely be rejected by the Assad regime as it already boycotted last month’s hearing.

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