Former Syrian colonel convicted of crimes against humanity — Action News Now

A German court has found a former Syrian security official guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison for his alleged torture and death in a Damascus prison.

A court in the city of Koblenz has found Anwar Raslan guilty of overseeing the killing of 27 prisoners at the Al-Khatib detention center during the Syrian conflict.

The 58-year-old is accused of ordering the torture and murder of detainees while serving in the Syrian security services. The crimes are said to have occurred between 2011 and 2012, the early days of Syria’s protracted conflict.

Berlin claims the right to prosecute Syrian men through universal jurisdiction. Legal theory holds that certain crimes are so heinous that no matter where they occur, they are said to be committed against humans, and that every country has a moral right to prosecute the perpetrators. Germany incorporated the concept into its legal system in 2002, and genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity will be prosecuted.

Raslan’s trial in Germany began in April 2020. In February, a second young defendant in the case, Eyad al-Gharib, was found guilty and sentenced to four years and six months in prison for accompany crimes against humanity.

German prosecutors have asked for Laslan to be sentenced to life in prison without parole for the first 15 years of his sentence. The former official was allegedly involved in the victimization of as many as 4,000 people.

Both men reportedly defected from government forces early in the war and lived in several different countries before arriving in Germany as asylum seekers. They were arrested in 2019 after some of their former victims recognized them.

The potentially precedent-setting case has been welcomed by opponents of the Syrian government, who say Germany provides a venue for its victims to seek justice. Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Ross called the verdict “very historic.” His organization provided some evidence during the trial.

Germany has previously tried others under universal jurisdiction, including a former jihadist sentenced for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of a Canadian citizen. However, Koblenz’s trial was extraordinary as two defendants in the case were convicted for their actions while serving the government in another country.

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