Syrian doctor tried in Germany for crimes against humanity

Alaa M., who practiced in Germany, is accused of having tortured prisoners and killed at least one opponent of Bashar al-Assad.

Alaa M. is accused of having tortured prisoners and killed at least one opponent of Bashar al-Assad: this former Syrian doctor, who practiced in Germany, is on trial for crimes against humanity from Wednesday January 19 in Frankfurt . The Federal Prosecutor’s Office is prosecuting him for “crimes against humanityin the name of Germany’s universal jurisdiction. This legal principle allowed last week the life sentence of a former Syrian officer in another trial, the first of this type in Germany.

Arrested in June 2020 in Hesse (western Germany), Alaa M. is on trial before the Frankfurt Regional Court for 18 cases of torture of opponents of the Syrian regime and for the murder by injection of a detainee. He faces life in prison. The doctor, who firmly denies the charges, allegedly committed these alleged abuses in two military hospitals in Homs, in central Syria, and in Damascus. Acts which illustrate, according to opponents of the regime, the use of these health establishments in repression. The doctor would also have raged in a Syrian military intelligence prison between April 2011 and the end of 2012 in Homs, a bastion of opposition to the regime at the start of the popular uprising which had turned into a civil war.

To an inmate he had hit with a truncheon, the doctor would then “administered an injection with a lethal substance (…) from which he died in a few minutes“, according to the specialized parquet floor of Karlsruhe. This trial must, in particular,show that military hospitals were, and probably still are, integrated into the systematic fight against Syrian civil society, as a complement to secret service prisons“, explains to AFP a lawyer for the civil parties, Me René Bahns. The defendant is also suspected, during the summer of 2011, the year of the outbreak of the uprising in Syria, of having doused alcohol before setting fire to the genitals of a teenager in the emergency room from the military hospital in Homs.

A visa issued by Germany

These abuses prove, according to René Bahns, “the importance of using sexual violencein the repression in Syria. The tortured opponents suffered, depending on the case, blows to the head, stomach, genitals, wounds. The doctor would have proceeded to the correction of a bone fracture without anesthesia, sprinkled a wound with a disinfectant containing alcohol, before setting it on fire, according to elements collected by justice. The accused left Syria in mid-2015 to join Germany thanks to a visa issued by Germany to Syrians exercising certain professions “in short supplyincluding medicine.

Orthopedic surgeon, Alaa M. practiced in several hospitals before being recognized by Syrian refugees. At the time of his arrest in June 2020, he was practicing in a rehabilitation clinic in Bad Wildungen, a peaceful spa town in Hesse. His colleagues knew nothing of his past. Karlsruhe prosecutors consider Alaa M. to be a fanatical supporter of President Assad who called opponents “cockroaches» and participated «without reservationto their repression. “The opening of the second trial in Germany for crimes against humanity committed in Syria shows that the efforts for justice for the atrocities committed in this country are gaining momentum“, greeted the NGO Human Rights Watch before the start of the hearing.

Alaa M. is tried in Germany in the name of the legal principle of “universal jurisdictionwhich allows a State to prosecute the perpetrators of the most serious crimes, regardless of their nationality and the place where they were committed. A former colonel in the Syrian intelligence services was thus sentenced on January 13 by German justice to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity in the context of the first trial in the world linked to abuses attributed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Investigations are notably opened in France following complaints from victims after the conflict in Syria which left nearly 500,000 dead and drove 6.6 million people into exile.

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