By Kit Roberts
A FORMER member of the Assad regime in Syria has been sentenced to prison by a German court after being found guilty of crimes against humanity.
Anwar Raslan, 58, was sentenced to life in prison after being connected to the torture of over 4,000 people between 2011 and 2012.
Raslan was accused of being a senior official at a notorious prison which oversaw horrifying torture of civilians.
The landmark trial marks the first case brought over torture carried out by state officials in Syria.
It comes after another Syrian Eyad Al-Gharib was convicted last year for being complicit in crimes against humanity.
In addition to the torture charges, Raslan was also charged with 58 murders, as well as rape and sexual assault.
The ruling is important because it marks the first time that a criminal court has acknowledged that crimes against humanity have been perpetrated by the Assad Regime.
Raslan, who was brought to trial in Koblenz after successfully claiming asylum in Germany in 2019, denied all charges, saying that he had even tried to help some of the people in the notorious prison dubbed ‘Hell on Earth’.
The court in Germany ruled that his face could not be shown in any media outlet.
Germany is currently home to around 800,000 Syrians who have been forced to flee their homeland amidst the horrors perpetrated by the Assad regime, horrors which have now been formally recognised in court.
The ruling also sets a precedent for similar cases to be brought forward, and was made possible by lawyers in Germany using the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allowed Raslan to be tried in Germany for a crime committed in Syria.
Fifty survivors from the infamous prison gave evidence at the trial, with 24 of them also standing as co-plaintiffs. The stories they told in their evidence is harrowing.
The court heard how torturers tore out fingernails, raped, beat detainees and threw cold water on them, with one survivor saying that they could always hear the screams of people being tortured.
Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad indicated he has been following the trial, but he and his regime continue to deny war crimes and “disappearing” civilians.
The trial has shone light onto the sheer terror which continues to drive people to risk their lives trying to reach Europe, with many paying the ultimate price in the attempt.
It has also served as a way to help gather a body of evidence to use in any future proceedings against other government officials, with lawyers already working on new cases.
In circumstances such as these it is difficult to speak of justice without a foul aftertaste. Nonetheless, the case marks a step towards those responsible for the catastrophe in Syria being held to account.
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