Germany pursues world's first criminal trial on state torture in Syria

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
A soldier loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad's forces in Quneitra, Syria. Photo: Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

The first-ever trial on state torture in Syria could begin as early as next year in Germany, after the country’s federal prosecutor filed charges at the higher regional court in Koblenz against two former officials from Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s General Intelligence Directorate.

Germany has charged the two Syrians with crimes against humanity. One of them is accused of being complicit in the torture of 4,000 people, resulting in 58 deaths, between 2011 and 2012. His colleague has been charged with at least 30 cases of torture.

The two Syrians, named only as Anwar R and Eyad A, in accordance with Germany’s rules on issuing witnesses’ names, were arrested in Germany earlier this year. They are both currently being held in pre-trial detention.

“These charges send an important message to survivors of Assad’s system of torture,” said the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights general secretary Wolfgang Kaleck in a statement. “We will continue working to ensure that the main perpetrators of torture under Assad are brought to justice – in Germany or elsewhere.”

The ECCHR said the joint plaintiffs are Syrian torture survivors, and that testimony from the witnesses and research by the human rights centre helped the German court to issue arrest warrants against the two men.

Now that the federal prosecutor has filed the charges, the next stage is for the higher regional court in Koblenz to decide if the trial will be opened, likely by next year.

One Syrian, whose name has not been released for security reasons, but who was tortured in Syria’s Al-Khatib jail, said in a statement that the case in Germany “gives us as survivors hope for justice.”

Germany’s federal court of justice also issued an arrest warrant against Jamil Hassan, the head of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence, in June last year.