Syrian refugees who fled to Jordan after being tortured and witnessed massacres presented evidence to the International Criminal Court in a new attempt to prosecute President Bashar al-Assad.
Although Syria is not a court petitioner based in The Hague, lawyers in London rely on a precedent set by the ICC to extend jurisdiction to the crime of forced displacement of the population.
Last year, the court opened a preliminary investigation into Myanmar's military leaders for alleged crimes against humanity involving deportation of the Rohingya people. Bangladesh, where refugees have fled, is part of the Rome Statute that established the ICC, as well as Jordan, where millions of Syrian refugees now reside.
There have been numerous efforts to persuade the ICC to act on allegations that the Assad regime has committed war crimes through the use of chemical weapons and the mass murder of detainees. They have failed so far because Hague prosecutors have not agreed to have jurisdiction to act.
In May 2014, the UN Security Council discussed a draft resolution to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court. Thirteen of its fifteen members voted in favor, but Russia and China were vetoed. Assad rejected the leaked photographs of thousands of numbered corpses taken by a Syrian defector, codenamed Caesar, as "false news".
The last intervention was coordinated by the London lawyer Rodney Dixon QC, of Temple Garden Chambers, who collaborates with the lawyers Stoke White. IICC's attorney, Fatou Bensouda, is being asked to open a lawsuit against senior Syrian officials, including Assad, for crimes against humanity committed during the civil war in Syria.
It is the first time that the precedent of Bangladesh / Myanmar has been used at the ICC against Syria. "The ICC exists precisely to do justice to the victims of these most brutal international crimes," Dixon said. "The devastating war in Syria has been going on for almost nine years and no one has yet been held responsible for the hundreds of thousands of violations against civilians.
"This case represents a genuine breakthrough for Syrian victims.There is a jurisdictional gateway that has finally opened up for the ICC prosecutor to investigate the perpetrators of the most responsible crimes."
The case is brought on behalf of 28 victims who have been forced to flee across the border with Jordan and live in refugee camps.
Refugees have testified that they have been repeatedly bombarded, shot, detained, tortured, mistreated and witnessed mass executions.
One of the victims, who does not want to be identified, said: "I have seen a lot of people affected by the regime's forces, people have been hit by chance, including my nephew of 18. Other family members have been kidnapped and we no longer have had news.
"In 2012, my neighbor's house was bombed and everyone who lived there died when I lived in [the Syrian city] Homs was a volunteer, providing drugs and treatment to the injured. I participated in a lot of women who had been raped and abused by the regime's forces. My volunteer work made me a target for the regime ".
The victim went on: "We had to flee to a safer place, we went to Damascus, my eldest son was forced to join forces with the regime, but he refused, he was taken away and brought back to our house a few days later. He was hurt everywhere and he did not recognize me.
"He was bleeding and his clothes were torn … We knew we had to leave again, I left with my four other children and we went to Jordan It was a very difficult journey, I have not heard of my son yet, I do not know if he is alive or dead.
The ICC must do something about it. We have suffered for too long. "