Landmark verdict against Syrian ex-officer

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The Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany, on Feb. 24 convicted a former officer of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate, Eyad A., on charges of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity—specifically, torture and deprivation of liberty committed against 30 persons. Eyad received a sentence of four years and six months in prison for his role in arresting people who were later tortured. The 30 persons, who were all civilians, had been participating in anti-government protests in Douma in 2011 when they were rounded up and sent by bus to Branch 251, or the al-Khatib detention center in Damascus. At Branch 251, they suffered grave physical, emotional and psychological abuse, in addition to being subjected to inhumane and degrading conditions. The court stated that “Eyad A. had already known about the regular and systematic torture in the prison of department 251 when the demonstrators were arrested… He also expected that the torture was part of a planned, organized action by the government to suppress opposition forces.”

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 88,000 civilians have died as a result of torture in state-run prisons and detetnion centers since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution nearly 10 years ago. The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates that 130,000 people are currently held in detention centers.

The verdict in Koblenz marks the first time that a court anywhere in the world has ruled on torture inflicted by the Syrian regime, and it sets the stage for the prosecution of high-ranking officers. The trial of the officer who headed Branch 251, Anwar Raslan, is pending before the same court in Germany.

From Jurist, Feb. 26. Used wth permission.

Note: The Assad regime is now credibly accused of genocide, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Critics have decried that in the case of Eyad A, it is a low-ranking officer that was charged. A group of Syrian refugees have announced that they are preparing to bring war crimes charges against dictator Bashar Assad before the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Photo of early Arab Revolution protest in Syria via Fightback

  1. Netherlands court convicts Syrian refugee of war crimes

    The District Court of The Hague on July 16 convicted Friday Ahmad al-Kehdr, a Syrian asylum-seeking and former rebel, of war crimes and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

    The court possessed video evidence of al-Khedr participating in the execution of a Syrian military official in 2012. Al-Khedr was prosecuted under universal jurisdiction law, which authorizes the Netherlands to pursue charges for genocide, war crimes, and human rights violations even if the crime took place elsewhere in the world. (Jurist)

  2. German court sentences two Syrians for war crimes

    The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court in Germany on Aug. 26 sentenced two Syrian nationals on war crime and terrorism-related charges. Khedr AK was given a life sentence, mainly for participating the execution of a Syrian army officer official and membership in a foreign terrorist organization. His co-defendant, Sami AS, was sentenced to nine years in prison for filming the crime and preparing the footage for use as propaganda, as well as for supporting a foreign terrorist organization.

    Khedr AK joined the Ghurabaa Muhassan group in the Syrian town of Muhassan in 2012. The group was an affiliate of Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. Khedr was proved to have been one of the people who guarded a captured Syrian lieutenant colonel’s transfer to the banks of the Euphrates for execution. The officer was a “protected person” under international humanitarian law. The court had heard as a witness Khedr AK’s brother, Ahmad al Khedr; last month, a Netherlands court convicted Ahmad of war crimes for firing several shots at the victim. (Jurist, Courthouse News)

  3. German court sentences another Syrian for war crimes

    Germany’s Federal Court of Justice announced it decision to reject a former Syrian rebel’s appeal of his conviction for war crimes, attempted homicide, torture, and membership in ISIS. The Stuttgart Higher Regional Court sentenced Fares AB to 12 years in November. He is accused of participating in the execution of a captive pro-regime fighter in 2012, and of joining ISIS two years later. (Jurist)

  4. German court: Syrian officer guilty of crimes against humanity

    A German court has convicted a former Syrian secret police officer of crimes against humanity for overseeing the abuse of prisoners at a detention center near Damascus a decade ago.

    The Jan. 14 verdict in the landmark trial has been keenly anticipated by Syrians who suffered abuse or lost relatives at the hands of Bashar Assad’s regime.

    The court in Koblenz concluded that Anwar Raslan was the senior officer in charge of a facility in the Syrian city of Douma known as al-Khatib, or Branch 251, where suspected opposition protesters were detained. The court sentenced him to life in prison. 

    His lawyers asked judges to acquit, claiming that Raslan never personally tortured anybody and that he defected in late 2012.

    German prosecutors alleged that Raslan supervised the “systematic and brutal torture” of more than 4,000 prisoners between April 2011 and September 2012, resulting in the deaths of dozens of people.

    A junior Syrian officer, Eyad al-Gharib, was convicted last year of accessory to crimes against humanity and sentenced by the German Koblenz court to four and a half years in prison. Both men were arrested in Germany in 2019, years after seeking asylum in the country (Syrian Observer)

  5. Syrian doctor on trial in Germany for crimes against humanity

    A trial against a Syrian doctor who has been accused of murder and torturing detainees began last week in Frankfurt, Germany. The defendant, identified only as Alaa M, has been accused by German prosecutors of 18 counts of torture and one count of murder while working as a doctor in Syrian military hospitals in Homs and Damascus between 2011 to 2012. After immigrating to Germany in 2015, the accused continued practicing as a doctor up until his arrest in 2020. (Jurist)

  6. Dutch police arrest Syrian militia member

    The Netherlands Public Prosecution Service on May 24 arrested a 34-year-old Syrian man accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The unnamed suspect is reported to have served in the state-aligned Liwa al-Quds militia during the ongoing conflict. According to prosecutors, the suspect, along with other members of the militia, detained and tortured a civilian in January, 2013. The suspect applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 2020. (Jurist)