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Damascus berates Dutch legal action on human rights record

The Netherlands has launched a bid through international bodies to hold the Syrian government to account for abuses
The Syrian government stands accused of committing widespread human rights abuses (AFP)

The Syrian government berated the Netherlands on Saturday for launching a new bid through international bodies to hold it responsible for alleged gross human rights violations.

A foreign ministry source quoted by state news agency SANA accused the Netherlands of abusing its position as host of a number of the bodies concerned.

"The Dutch government… is determined to use the International Court of Justice [ICJ] in The Hague to serve the political agendas of its American master," the ministry source said.

The source accused the Netherlands of doing so "in a flagrant violation of its obligations and commitments as the headquarters state of this international organisation".

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On Friday, the Dutch government announced that it was pursuing all legal avenues to ensure that the Syrian government was held to account for its human rights record.

An attempt to refer top Syrian government officials to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for prosecution was blocked by Chinese and Russian vetoes in May 2014.

But the Dutch government said that, if arbitration failed, it would pursue action through an international court, the most likely being the ICJ, also in The Hague, a city on the Netherlands' coast.

Unlike the ICC, which deals with cases against individuals, the ICJ deals with disputes between UN member states and breaches of UN treaties, and is the world body's top judicial organ.

Syria signed the UN Convention against Torture in 2004 and the Dutch government said its legal action would focus on alleged breaches of that treaty.

Trial of Syrian officials underway in Germany

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Germany, a trial is underway where a Syrian intelligence unit has been accused of imprisonment, torture and killing of numerous activists and political campaigners during the anti-government uprising in Syria in 2011 and ongoing war raging in the country for nearly a decade.

The trial involves Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib, intelligence officials who had fled Syria and applied for asylum in Germany, before both were arrested by authorities there under the principle of universal jurisdiction and put on trial in April.

Raslan is charged with crimes against humanity, rape, aggravated sexual assault and 58 murders. Gharib, who was a lower-ranking official, is accused of 30 counts of assistance to torture and murder.

The United States and the European Union have targeted numerous figures linked to the Damascus government with economic sanctions since the civil war erupted in 2011.

But concerted international action has been blocked by deep divisions over the conflict.

The war has killed more than 380,000 people and driven millions from their homes since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests