Syria: 'Assad must be held accountable'

The Netherlands is leading international action to bring President Bashar al Assad to justice.

Video Transcript

ADAM PARSONS: Far from Syria, but still haunted by the nightmares of that broken nation. Wafa's father, Ali, was a critic of the Syrian regime. In 2013, Ali was seized by armed men in Damascus and hasn't been seen since. His family fled Syria. Wafa now lives in Berlin. She is a devoted daughter who's become a resolute campaigner.

WAFA MUSTAFA: I think that the main source of my hope is my memory. My memory of my dad. Every time I feel that this is just pointless, I see someone inside Syria protesting in Idlib for example. And after 10 years, under Daesh and bombing, demanding freedom, and saying that we do not give up our freedom, I mean, I just feel like, do I even have the right to be give up hope?

ADAM PARSONS: Each of these photos is of someone who was detained or disappeared or were simply killed. Here, a family group. All of them have gone. We meet Amina. She was detained in appalling conditions. Her three brothers were tortured and killed by those loyal to President Assad.


At the United Nations, Russia and China vetoed a resolution that would have held President Assad accountable. But there are rumblings of change. In Germany, a former Syrian agent has been jailed for his involvement in torture. Another man remains on trial. But there may be a pathway to holding President Assad himself accountable. And it starts here in the Netherlands.

The Dutch government accuses Syria of breaking the international convention against torture, and says all such abuses must come to an end. If it doesn't get that guarantee, and few think it will, then the path ends with charges being levied against President Assad and his ministers here at the International Court of Justice. Now the problem is, this process would take a long time, years. The flip side is, it wouldn't be subject to veto by diplomats from Russia or China.

The Netherlands have now been joined by Canada in this legal action. The Dutch Foreign Minister told me he's determined to see justice done, even if it takes time and patience.

STEF BLOK: We have statements by survivors. We have those terrible pictures I think a lot of people have seen. We have the eyewitness. So there is ample evidence to be used in a court of law. But first, I want now to have serious conversations with the Syrian government. I'm afraid that the wheels of justice often grind slowly. So it might take a couple of years. But we will persevere.

ADAM PARSONS: Back in Berlin, Wafa too perseveres. Inspired by her father, exhausted by her work, traumatized by her memories, yet she is determined to ensure the world doesn't forget. Adam Parsons, Sky News, Berlin.