A former Syrian colonel and intelligence officer have been sentenced in Germany to life in prison for murder, torture, and orders during the civil war in his country.
The Koblenz court finds 58-year-old Anwar Raslan guilty of crimes against humanity in 2011 and 2012. He has denied the charges.
The criminal trial was held under so-called universal jurisdiction: prosecution of crimes against humanity wherever they were committed. It is the first time worldwide that this has been used for crimes in Syria. Then, the prosecutors had demanded life.
The former soldier is believed to be responsible for torturing at least 4,000 people in a Syrian intelligence prison in the capital Damascus. According to prosecutors, at least 58 people have been killed as a result. The judges consider 27 murders proven, German media report.
The trial of Raslan and co-defendant Eyad al-Gharib began in April 2020. The latter, also a former member of the Syrian secret service, was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison in February last year for crimes against humanity.
He cooperated in torture on behalf of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. He arranged for the arrest and transport of demonstrators to a detention centre where torture was taking place. As a result, both Syrians were arrested in Germany in 2019.
Human rights organization Human Rights Watch sees the ruling as a beacon of hope in the fight for justice in Syria. “The verdict is a breakthrough for Syrian victims and the German justice system to break the wall of impunity.”