Life Imprisonment in Historical Torture Trial
Today, the Syrian former colonel Anwar Raslan was sentenced to life imprisonment by a German court in a landmark case. This is the first trial in the world in which Syrian officials from the Assad regime are brought to justice for crimes against humanity.
“This verdict signals that such crimes may not be committed with impunity,” says Aida Samani, Legal Adviser at Civil Rights Defenders.
The trial, held in Koblenz in Germany, is the world’s first in which a court concludes that crimes committed in the Syrian regime’s detention facilities constitute crimes against humanity. Anwar Raslan was sentenced to life in prison for, among other things, overseeing the torture of more than 4,000 people, 27 murders and several cases of sexual violence.
“A court has for the first time confirmed what survivors have said for years: torture, sexual violence and murder is widespread and committed systematically in Syrian detention facilities. This verdict signals that such crimes may not be committed with impunity,” says Aida Samani, Legal Adviser at Civil Rights Defenders.
Serious international crimes tried abroad
Anwar Raslan, who was arrested in Germany in 2019, is the highest ranking official to be tried and convicted for atrocities committed in Syria. In February 2021, Anwar Raslan’s colleague was sentenced to prison for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity within the framework of the same legal process. There are several other processes throughout Europe, seeking justice for crimes committed in Syria. Using the principle of universal jurisdiction other states can investigate and prosecute grave international crimes, no matter where the crimes are committed.
Several similar cases in Sweden
Civil Rights Defenders is currently pursuing similar processes in Sweden and have filed several criminal complaints against members of the Syrian regime to demand redress for torture and other serious crimes committed in Syrian regime prisons. In 2019, we filed criminal complaints against 25 high-ranking members of the Syrian regime for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
In 2021, we filed criminal complaints against several representatives of the Syrian regime for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by chemical weapons attacks on the civilian population in al-Ghouta in 2013 and Khan Sheikhoun in 2017. Swedish authorities have decided to open investigations. Civil Rights Defenders monitor the development.