A German court has announced that the hearings of two former Syrian intelligence officers accused of participating in “crimes against humanity” will begin in April.
Legal activists at the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights said that this legal procedure is the first of its kind in the world that relates to torture carried out under the auspices of the Syrian state.
The trial is scheduled to start on April 23 in the city of Koblenz in western Germany and is expected to continue until at least August.
A former Syrian intelligence officer, Anwar Raslan (57 years old), is facing charges of crimes against humanity and rape, in addition to 58 charges of murder, while former officer Iyad Al-Gharib (43 years old) is accused of complicity in these violations.
Raslan led the investigation department in the “Branch 231” of the Syrian Intelligence, who ran a prison in the Damascus area. The prosecutor says that this officer participated in the torture of prisoners between April 2011 and September 2012 before he defected.
The German court said in a statement, on Tuesday, to an indictment stating that about 4 thousand prisoners were “beaten, kicked and electrocuted” in the branch prison under the supervision of Raslan. The statement added that there are allegations about “at least one case of rape and sexual assault.”
The prosecution believes that “Raslan was aware of the level of torture, which means that he also knew that prisoners were dying as a result of severe violence.”
As for the former officer, Iyad Al-Gharib, he was accused of detaining anti-government protesters and taking them to prisons, where they were “subjected to brutal torture.”
The two former officers had subsequently escaped to Germany, before being arrested in February 2019 as a result of a Franco-German joint investigation.
Although the defendants are Syrian citizens, they will be tried under the principle of international justice, which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity.
This trial in Germany follows a series of complaints lodged in several European countries by torture victims, with the support of lawyers from the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights.
About 16 Syrians are expected to participate in the trial as prosecutors and witnesses.
The centre said in a statement that, “By using the principle of the international judicial authority, the German judiciary sends an important signal to the survivors and those affected by the system of torture and repression led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”
“The trial in Koblenz is an important step, albeit the beginning of a long way to get to justice,” said Patrick Crocker, an official at the European Centre. He added that “more trials should follow this trial.”
In 2017, the US House of Representatives passed the Caesar Act to protect civilians in Syria, imposes sanctions on supporters of the Syrian regime and calls for the prosecution of war crimes.
The legislation called on US President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on foreign persons and entities that provide material and technical support to the Syrian government.
A soldier who defected from the Syrian army in 2013, codenamed “Caesar”, had published painful pictures of thousands of corpses whose owners had died due to torture of all kinds under the whips of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.