Germany Sentences Syrian For War Crimes

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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

KOBLENZ (Worthy News) – A German court has sentenced a Syrian colonel to life in prison in the first such crimes against humanity trial in reunited Germany.

Anwar Raslan, 58, was linked to torturing thousands and killing dozens during Syria’s civil war in “Hell on Earth,” a Damascus prison run by a unit of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security services that he headed.

Raslan was found guilty on 27 of out 58 counts of murder, rape, and sexual assault carried out at a Damascus prison run by a unit of President Bashar al-Assad’s security services that he headed.

He was charged with 58 murders and rape and sexual assault, and the torture of at least 4,000 people held there between 2011 and 2012.

The trial in Koblenz is the world’s first criminal case brought over state-led torture in Syria. United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet praised the conviction as a “landmark leap forward” in pursuing truth.

Commentators said the criminal court has now formally acknowledged that crimes against humanity were perpetrated by “the Assad regime” against its citizens.

Christians also suffered in the civil war in the mainly Muslim nation.

Raslan, a colonel when he defected to the Syrian opposition in 2012 and who prosecutors said was granted asylum in Germany two years later, had denied all charges.

The Assad government also denies it tortures prisoners.

The trial was held under Germany’s universal jurisdiction laws, which allow courts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

Prosecutors supported by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) had gathered evidence since 2016 from nearly 50 Syrian torture survivors living in Germany. They also used information from others based elsewhere in Europe, added the ECCHR – a non-governmental organization founded by lawyers in 2007.

Mariam Alhallak, whose son died during interrogations by government agents after being abducted at Damascus University in 2012, the year after the war began, welcomed the verdict.

“It means a lot to me because I have a feeling that justice is happening,” she said outside the court in the western German city of Koblenz. She ass one of Syrian mothers holding pictures of children they said were killed or tortured in Syrian government facilities.

“It’s a small step toward the justice we hope will be achieved: accountability for all those who committed violations, including the criminals who killed my son.”

But some of the estimated 800,000 Syrians living in Germany have opposed the Koblenz trial. Critics say it discourages defections by Syrians who may have more evidence of crimes committed by the government.

But United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet hailed what she called “a landmark leap forward” in pursuing justice for the grave human rights violations perpetrated in Syria.

“This is a clear example of how national courts can and should fill accountability gaps for such crimes wherever they were committed,” she said in a statement from Geneva, Switzerland. She urged other states to employ the same principles of extraterritorial jurisdiction.

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