Syrian guilty of crimes against humanity

A German court has convicted a former Syrian secret police officer of crimes against humanity for overseeing the mistreatment of detainees in a prison near Damascus a decade ago.

Syrians who have been abused or lost relatives at the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s government in the country’s long-running conflict were awaiting verdict on Thursday in the landmark trial.

The Koblenz state court concluded that Anwar Raslan was the 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.

German broadcaster NTV reported that the court had sentenced him to life imprisonment. His lawyers asked the court last week to acquit their client, claiming he had never personally tortured anyone and had defected in late 2012.

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

Junior officer Iyad al-Gharib was convicted last year of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 41/2 years in prison by the Koblenz Court.

The two men were arrested in Germany in 2019, after years of seeking asylum in the country.

Victims and human rights groups expressed hope that the ruling would be a first step towards achieving justice for the countless people who were unable to file criminal complaints against officials in Syria or before the International Criminal Court.

Since Russia and China have blocked efforts by the UN Security Council to refer cases to the Hague-based court, countries like Germany that apply the principle of universal jurisdiction over serious crimes will become the venue for such trials, experts say.

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