The conviction of a Syrian officer for crimes against humanity, a hope of justice for the victims of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime

At the end of a historic trial, the High Regional Court of Koblenz, Germany, sentenced, Thursday, January 13, the Syrian colonel Anwar Raslan to life imprisonment for “crimes against humanity”. Finding him guilty of ordering or perpetuating acts of torture against at least 4,000 prisoners in Al-Khatib prison, Damascus, and the murder of 27 of them between April 2011 and September 2012. This is the first verdict ever handed down against a senior Syrian official.

Among the legal actions taken against Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Europe in the name of universal jurisdiction, which makes it possible to prosecute the perpetrators of the most serious crimes regardless of where they were committed and the nationality of the perpetrators or of the victims, the so-called “Koblenz” procedure was the most advanced. The one whose outcome was the most awaited. The trial opened in April 2020 after the former officer was arrested in February 2019 by German police. He had been recognized by his victims, Syrian refugees in Germany.

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Responsible for the investigations of the 251 division of the Syrian military intelligence, Anwar Raslan was the head. The one who coordinated the arrests, investigations and interrogations conducted under torture to extract so-called confessions. Under his command, in particular, a junior officer, Eyad Al-Gharib.

Co-accused in Koblenz, he was sentenced in February 2021 to four and a half years in prison during the first phase of this trial, which opened on April 23, 2020, after being found guilty of the arrest of around thirty demonstrators and their transfer to the premises of Division 251, located in the Al-Khatib neighborhood in the center of Damascus.

The Syrian detainees were not only “tortured but also starved and deprived of air”, underlined Thursday the president of the court, Anne Kerber. They have “received blows all over the body, especially the soles of the feet”, “they were hung by the wrists” and have suffered “electroshocks and burns”. German judges also found Anwar Raslan guilty of aggravated sexual assault and rape, calling them crimes against humanity, as many victims had hoped.

” Where are they ? »

His lawyers, appointed ex officio, hammered throughout the trial that Anwar Raslan would have helped the prisoners before defecting, putting an end to twenty-six years of career. The reason for his departure from Syria remains obscure. Did he want to flee the unthinkable? Save his skin? His career ? The judges swept ” ambiguity “ Raslan.

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