But Germany isn't the only jurisdiction the plaintiffs plan to litigate against the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The consortium of NGOs plans to file criminal complaints in other European jurisdictions by next year.

"We hope that we can galvanise universal jurisdiction prosecutors to investigate these attacks and to hear evidence that we've presented so that they can build criminal investigation files that will support prosecutions in the future," says Open Society's Steve Kostas.

Longing for justice

Located on the ground floor of a nondescript Berlin building and decorated with little more than a whiteboard, the offices of the Syrian Archive have managed to reflect its founder's ascetic quality. For Hadi, who now resides in Germany, little has mattered more than the pursuit of justice in Syria.

International efforts have focused on combatting impunity in the conflict through transnational approaches. But for Hadi and many other Syrians, the goal remains much closer to home.

 

"Those mechanisms to ensure accountability are really important … and ensure people understand that justice is not forgotten," says Hadi. "They are important mechanisms – until justice and a trial can happen in Syria, which would have a very different meaning for all the people there."

Mazen Darwish, a Syrian lawyer and exile living in Germany, agrees. "This is not justice," says Darwish, who was arrested several times in Syria for his advocacy work. "These are the alternative choices, because one day we will create a respectable transitional justice system in Syria."

Back at Eman and Mohammed's home at an undisclosed location in Germany, the memories of the chemical attack plague their every waking moment. Yet, that despair has not deterred them from the hope that one day the perpetrators of the Ghouta attack will face justice.

"Injustice taught us to be brave. But as much as we have courage, we are weak and what happened in front of me never goes away," says Eman. "But this is my wish in this world. That they will hold [Assad] accountable – he and all those with him who wronged us and many others, who wronged many children and left so many homeless."

Lewis Sanders IV, Birgitta Schulke-Gill & Julia Bayer

© Deutsche Welle 2020

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