A German court on Thursday sentenced former Syrian colonel Anwar Raslan to life in prison for crimes against humanity in the world’s first state-led torture trial by the Assad regime.
In the landmark Koblenz case, which began in April 2020, Raslan was convicted of murder, rape, sexual assault and mass torture in a Damascus prison during the Syrian civil war, which began in 2011. Raslan served in the camp of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. security services and headed the intelligence unit that oversaw the operation of the prison dubbed “Hell on Earth”.
German universal jurisdiction laws have been enforced, allowing courts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.
More than 80 witnesses and a number of torture victims have lined up to accuse Raslan of the crimes. The former colonel was arrested in Germany in 2019, after having successfully applied for asylum.
Human rights activists have welcomed the verdict.
“More than 10 years after the violations in Syria, the German court’s verdict is a long-awaited beacon of hope that justice can and will eventually prevail,” said Balkees Jarrah, deputy director of international justice at Human Rights Watch . “Other countries should follow Germany’s lead and actively step up efforts to prosecute serious crimes in Syria. ”
Assad’s government in Syria has denied torturing prisoners.