Former Syrian colonel, Anwar Raslan, who is accused of committing crimes against humanity will face trial at the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany.
Raslan was arrested whilst in Berlin in mid-February last year and will face trial on Thursday as will Eyad al-Gharib, who worked under Raslan. Raslan’s trial is permitted under the legal principle of universal jurisdiction. According to the German Code of Crimes against International Law, German federal prosecutors are permitted to pursue anyone who commits crimes against humanity.
Raslan is seen as one of the most senior military officials represent Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government. German courts report in Damascus between April 2011 and September 2012 at least 4,000 prisoners were tortured, beaten, electrocuted, and subject to sexual violence. This happened under the preview of Branch 251 of the Syrian military intelligence service where Raslan worked. At least 58 people died as a result of this torture.
Cathrin Schaer, a journalist for Al Jazeera, that whilst the German Code of Crimes against International Law permitted prosecutions under universal jurisdiction since June 2002, it was not until recently that courts have been able to implement such prosecutions successfully. Schaer writes that this shifted due to the arrival of a million Syrian refugees after 2015. They were able to provide evidence of war crimes and were able to push the German government and prosecutors to pursue this type of case.
German authorities have also issued an arrest warrant for Jamil Hassan, the head of Syria’S Air Force Intelligence until mid-2019.
Catherine Marchi-Uhel, head of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria, stated on this trial:
“Germany, with this case, offers the hope that, while there is seemingly large-scale impunity for crimes in Syria, that impunity will only be temporary”.
Read more from Al Jazeera.