A Syrian regime intelligence officer was convicted of crimes against humanity. The German court sentenced 58-year-old Anwar Raslan to life in prison, at the conclusion of the world’s first trial linked to state-sponsored torture under Syrian President Bashar as-Assad.
Raslan’s conviction included the following charges, “murder, grievous bodily harm, sexual assault, deprivation of liberty and hostage-taking in connection with his work, according to a news release from the court in the western city of Koblenz,” reports The Washington Post on Thursday. The defendant oversaw 27 murders, the torture of 4,000 individuals, sexual abuse, and rape of detainees in al-Khatib unit Damascus. He committed these crimes during his tenure as the head of investigations in the scandalous Branch 251 of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate.
His conviction is the greatest step in more than 10 years of seeking justice for those show suffered at the hands of the Syrian state system as it relentlessly attempted to vanquish mass protests during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising and the bloody years afterward.
Syrian survivors, 50 of the very people al-Assad’s regime tried to silence in the civil uprising that turned into years of war gave their testimonies against Raslan, who was in charge of interrogation.
Witnesses describe being “welcomed” at the security office with an hour of beatings or whippings. They spoke about being held in overcrowded and stifling cells. Detainees were fed foul-tasting potatoes and had to drink out of toilets.
The Syrian officer denied he ever tortured anyone. However, Wassim Mukdad told the court about the suffering he was forced to endure for months after his arrest in 2012. The Syrian musician is a co-plaintiff in the case who now lives in Berlin. Soon after the verdict was announced, he declared:
This verdict says it loud and clear that the criminals will pay for their crimes sooner or later.
The ruling holds a special significance for Anwar al-Bunni, the Syrian human rights lawyer. Not only did the judges find Ralan’s systemic brutality an atrocity, but the evidence revealed that the officer did not act alone. The Koblenz verdict, Bunni contends, was an indictment of al-Assad’s oppressive government itself. These verdicts are important since they mention crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian regime.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
NPR: German court sentences Syrian intelligence officer to life in prison for war crimes; by Deborah Amos
The New York Times: Murder, Torture, Rape: A Landmark Conviction on State Violence in Syria; by Ben Hubbard and Katrin Bennhold
The Washington Post: Syrian intelligence officer is convicted of crimes against humanity, gets life in prison in landmark German trial; by Loveday Morris and Vanessa Guinan-Bank
Featured and Top Image by Cpl. Eden Briand Courtesy of Israel Defense Forces’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image by Humena for Human Rights and Civic Engagement Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of Working Families Party’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License