An Assad army officer abused civilians in Syria and was convicted of crimes against …
A German court has ruled today (Thursday) that former Syrian colonel Anwar Raslan is guilty of crimes against humanity. He was found guilty of acts that took place during the first two years of the Syrian civil war, when in 2011 and 2012 he was responsible for torturing at least 4,000 people in a prison of the General Intelligence Service in the capital Damascus.Raslan denied torturing or instructing others to perform torture, but was prosecuted and found guilty by virtue of the principle of universal jurisprudence – a recognized legal principle in international law that allows for the prosecution of war crimes committed by foreigners in other countries. The trial, held in the regional court in Koblenz, Rhineland-Palatinate, is the first of its kind to link crimes against humanity to the actions of the Syrian government in the civil war, and is part of a larger trial that began in April 2020.

Raslan was preceded by two defendants found guilty of aiding and abetting a crime against humanity – the younger of the two, a Syrian named Aid al-Arab, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison last February for helping the Syrian government identify about 30 protesters – leading to torture in al-Al Division. ” The two men belonged to Bashar Assad’s regime, and were arrested in Germany in 2019 after fleeing Syria.

Denies any incident of abuse, Syrian President Bashar Assad | Photo: AP

During the country’s civil war, dozens of prisoners died in custody and according to the court – also bled by Raslan’s hands. He oversaw investigations that included “electric shocks,” beatings with “punches and whips, rape, sexual abuse and sleep deprivation.” He was arrested in Germany in 2019 after receiving asylum from the German government.

His trial was unusual for several reasons. First, dealing with the torture perpetrated by the Syrian government was made possible because of the arrival in Germany of some 800,000 Syrians who had fled their country. Second, many of them brought terrible stories about what happened to those who opposed the Assad regime – stories that led some human rights lawyers from Germany to go to court to exercise the principle of universal jurisdiction.

The issue of the Syrian civil war does not come up for discussion in international courts at all, despite the atrocities committed during the battles against civilians. In the UN Security Council, Russia and China vetoed attempts by Western powers to refer the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court, and survivors of torture and chemical weapons attacks were left with very limited opportunities to gain justice.

Wolfgang Kalk, head of the European Center for Constitution and Human Rights, who led the case, said it was difficult to talk about justice: “Given that hundreds of thousands of people were tortured and tens of thousands died as a result of the violent policies of the Assad regime, many did not receive justice.”

Syrian Civil War (Photo: quetions123, shutterstock)
800,000 Syrians fled to Germany during the Civil War, archive | Photo: quetions123, shutterstock

In recent months, the court has heard how detainees have been beaten and soaked in cold water. Others were raped or hung from the ceiling for hours on end. According to the testimonies, the torturers tore the prisoners’ nails and used electric shocks. “They seem to have enjoyed what they did,” one witness said at the trial.

Prosecutors sought to prevent any possibility of probation for Raslan. Lawyers are currently preparing cases against several other suspects from the Syrian regime. However, in the end, they want to bring to justice those who are at the top of the chain of command.

Bashar Assad noted that he was following the trial, but he and his government had repeatedly denied the allegations of torture or “disappearance” under duress of hundreds of thousands of Syrian citizens. The plaintiffs, for their part, emphasize that the trial is a reminder of the plight of many Syrians even today.

By Editor

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