The ‘Responsibility to Prosecute’ Core International Crimes? The Case of German Universal Jurisdiction and the Syrian Government

In: Global Responsibility to Protect

Arguably, more than any other state or interstate actor, German federal authorities, including the German Federal Public Prosecutor General (Generalbundesanwalt, gba) and German Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt), have been at the forefront of issuing arrest warrants for senior members of the Syrian government suspected of atrocity crimes in the wake of the Arab Spring. This includes German federal authorities making the first arrest of a senior member of the Syrian government in February 2019 for crimes against humanity. This article argues that in relation to core international crimes, Germany’s concept of law reflects one based on a ‘standard’ and international rule of law. Moreover, German federal authorities have demonstrated a willingness to use international humanitarian and criminal law (ichl) in relation to those most responsible for core international crimes. In this way, Germany’s current investigations into alleged crimes against humanity in Syria since 2011 provides for an illuminating case for extending universal jurisdiction, as well as the ‘responsibility to prosecute’ as a legal obligation. It also indicates how a multiplicity of actors – including state and non-state actors – can extend the reach of international criminal law, when the International Criminal Court (icc) cannot act.