The first criminal case in a Western court against members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government began with a WhatsApp message.

Amal and her younger brother, Abdul, were inseparable growing up in an upper-class home in a village in Idlib province in northwestern Syria. Amal left Syria at the age of 19, following her fiance, a medical student, to Spain and later she became a Spanish citizen.

Amal was not sure what had happened to her brother — until that moment in 2015 when she stared down at Abdul’s lifeless, dirt-covered face, half in shadow. There was a piece of white tape on his forehead with illegible markings on it. The picture had been found on the Facebook page of a human rights group and forwarded to Amal by a relative.

Once Amal had recovered from the shock of seeing her dead brother, she sent a message to the Facebook page in which she provided Abdul’s full name, along with her contact information. She included a photo of Abdul from before his arrest by Syrian forces.

Amal did not realize it at the time, but her response had opened a legal pathway which international war crimes investigators had long been waiting for.


Read the whole story from The Washington Post.

Featured image courtesy of Reuters.