A German court today (Thursday) sentenced Anwar Raslan, a former Syrian intelligence officer responsible for a detention facility in Damascus, to the first conviction of a senior defendant from the Assad regime for crimes against humanity in the Syrian civil war.
The Koblenz High Court of Appeal ruled that Raslan, who served in Syrian General Intelligence at the rank of colonel and commanded al-Khatib Prison in Damascus from April 29, 2011 to September 7, 2012, was guilty of all offenses against him and sentenced to life in prison.
Raslan, 58, was charged with torturing more than 4,000 detainees at the facility, including conducting investigations using electric shocks, beatings with “punches, wires and whips,” rape, sexual assault and sleep deprivation, in addition to 27 murders and two kidnappings.
The former intelligence officer vehemently denied any involvement in the killings. He defected from Syria in 2012 and managed to reach Germany two years later. He was arrested in 2019, after his application for asylum in the country was approved.
“Important punishment for all Syrians”
During the trial, which lasted more than a hundred days, dozens of testimonies were heard from women and men who survived the brutal detention facility. They told in detail how they underwent physical and psychological torture and how they were put in cluttered cells without food, water and medical care. One of the plaintiffs, Wesim Mokedad, recounted how he was beaten with his feet and heels. “They knew exactly where to cause the maximum pain,” he said.
“This punishment is important for all the Syrians who have suffered and still suffer from the crimes of the Assad regime,” declared Roham Hawash, who was imprisoned in the torture facility and joined the prosecution. “It shows us that justice should not remain for us just a dream.”
Last February, a court in Koblenz convicted Iyad al-Gharib, a former junior officer in Syrian intelligence, of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity and sentenced him to six years and four months in prison. But the verdict today is the first time that a senior Syrian official has been convicted of crimes against humanity during a war that has lasted nearly 11 years.
“This is the first time people from the Assad regime have stood trial in a regular criminal court,” said Stephanie Boker, director of the International Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials at Marburg University. “It sends a clear message to the world that there are crimes that cannot be avoided from punishment.”