German court to give verdict on first ever Syria torture case

BERLIN, GERMANY (Parliament Politics Magazine): The highest-ranking official, former colonel Anwar Raslan, to be convicted for atrocities committed in Syria by a German court. Victims and human rights activists in Syria are awaiting the outcome of the world’s first criminal trial on state-sponsored torture in the war-torn country.

On Thursday, nearly two years after German federal prosecutors detained the main defendant, the verdict will be delivered at a court in Koblenz, a city in southwest Germany.

The 58 year old Former Syrian colonel, Anwar Raslan, is the highest-ranking former government official to be convicted for atrocities that were committed in Syria. He claimed refuge in Germany in 2014.

Prosecutors allege that he was involved in crimes against humanity.

Despite the fact that Raslan was not specifically charged for killing or torturing anyone, they claim he ran a branch of Syria’s notorious secret agency, Branch 251, in Damascus, and its nearby prison in 2011 and 2012 before defecting and fleeing the country.

As a consequence, they hold Raslan responsible for at least 4,000 people being sexual assaulted, tortured and at least 30 fatalities as a result of abusive treatment at Branch 251 during that time.

Raslan should be sentenced to life in prison, according to a German federal prosecutor.

“We want some proof that our suffering counted for something,”  Wassim Mukdad, a Branch 251 survivor who testified, said during an online press conference in Berlin on Monday. I hope that I, along with many others, could give a voice to those who couldn’t tell their stories”

Who used to be a defendant in the trial, Eyad al-Gharib, a lower-ranking ex-Syrian intelligence officer, has been removed from the case.

In 2011, he was accused of detaining and delivering  over a dozen of protesters to Branch 251, where they faced torture. He traveled to Germany seeking refuge in 2018.

He was found guilty and sentenced to four and a half years in a German prison for involvement in crimes committed against humanity last February.

106 hearings have been held by The Higher Regional Court in Koblenz since the beginning of the trial in April 2020, with 80 witnesses and more from all over Germany and Europe testifying.

Witness testimony on torture, threats, and sexual assault, as well as deplorable prison circumstances, was harrowing to listen to.

The case marks the first time the so-called Caesar photographs have been used in a courtroom.

The trial has international relevance for multiple reasons, according to a senior project manager with the Open Society Justice Initiative, Eric Witte, which backed several witnesses in the case.

The trial has international relevance for multiple reasons, according to Eric Witte, a senior project manager with the Open Society Justice Initiative, which backed several witnesses in the case.

To begin with, it reminds the world of “the al-Assad regime’s brutality and some of the most heinous tragedies of our time,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Documenting the systemic nature of these atrocities is also crucial to the Syrians who participated in the trial as witnesses and those who had an involvement in meticulous efforts.”

Because of a legal principle known as “universal jurisdiction,” Germany is competent to prosecute crimes committed in Syria.

This indicates that German cops and prosecutors can file cases in local courts regardless of where the crimes took place.