Landmark ruling by court in Koblenz sees Anwar Raslan convicted for crimes against humanity in Damascus jail a decade ago.
A German court sentenced Anwar Raslan, a former Syrian colonel, to life in prison for committing crimes against humanity at a jail near Damascus a decade ago.
Thursday’s landmark ruling by the state court in Koblenz marks a first step towards justice for countless Syrians who suffered abuse at the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s government during the country’s years-long conflict.
It was the world’s first criminal case brought over state-led torture in Syria and Raslan, 58, is the highest-ranking former government official to be tried for atrocities committed there.
Prosecutors had argued Raslan supervised the “systematic and brutal torture” of more than 4,000 prisoners at the Al-Khatib prison in the Syrian capital between April 2011 and September 2012, resulting in the deaths of at least 58 people.
Raslan is alleged to have been a high-ranking security service officer under al-Assad as mass anti-government protests against his rule were violently crushed. He sought refuge in Germany after defecting from his post and deserting Syria in 2012.
Raslan’s lawyers asked the Koblenz court last week to acquit their client, claiming that he never personally tortured anybody.
Prosecutors secured the trial under Germany’s universal jurisdiction laws, which allow courts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.
Thursday’s ruling came after junior officer, Eyad al-Gharib, was convicted by the Koblenz court in February last year of accessory to crimes against humanity and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.
Al-Gharib and Raslan were both arrested in Germany in 2019, years after seeking asylum in the country.
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