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

At the end of a historic trial, the High Regional Court of Koblenz, Germany, on Thursday, January 13, sentenced Syrian colonel Anwar Raslan to life in prison 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 rendered against a senior Syrian official.

Among the legal actions brought against Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Europe in the name of universal jurisdiction, which allows the perpetrators of the most serious crimes to be prosecuted 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 arrest of the former officer in February 2019 by German police. He had been recognized by his victims, Syrians who had taken refuge in Germany.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers « Crimes against humanity »: three Syrians arrested in France and Germany

In charge of the investigations of the 251 division of the Syrian military intelligence, Anwar Raslan was the chief. The one who coordinated the arrests, investigations and interrogations conducted under torture to extract so-called confessions. Under his orders, 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, opened on April 23, 2020, after being convicted of the arrest of around thirty demonstrators and their transfer to the premises of Division 251, located in the Al-Khatib neighborhood, in central Damascus.

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 hanged by the wrists » and suffered « Electroshocks and burns ». German judges also found Anwar Raslan guilty of sexual violence and aggravated rape, calling them crimes against humanity, as many victims hoped.

 » Where are they ? « 

His lawyers, appointed, 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 unclear. Did he want to flee the unthinkable? Save his skin? His career ? The judges swept away  » ambiguity «  Raslan.

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