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German Court Set To Prosecute Syrian War Crimes

Statement on the Trial of Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib for Crimes Against Humanity in Germany.

Today, German prosecutors, under a universal jurisdiction mandate, will try two Syrian regime officials, Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib, for crimes against humanity in the Higher Regional Court of Koblenz.

A joint Franco-German police operation led to the arrest of Raslan and al-Gharib in February 2019. Raslan directed interrogations at al-Khatib prison from 2011 to 2012, where more than 4,000 Syrian civilians endured brutal, systematic torture. Eyad al-Gharib, a subordinate of Raslan, delivered detainees to the al-Khatib prison.

This case is a significant step in beginning to hold the Assad regime accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity. It brings hope to those who have put themselves at significant personal risk to document evidence and bring Assad’s war criminals to justice. In light of China and Russia’s veto in the U.N. Security Council of ICC referral for Syria, prosecutions of Syrian war criminals in Europe remain the most promising avenue for seeking justice and accountability. In addition to the German prosecution, investigators in France, Norway, Spain, and Sweden continue their legal work against war criminals in Syria.

The Syrian Emergency Task Force continues to support these efforts in coordination with the Caesar Team and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. Through our long-standing relationship with Caesar and Sami, our organization has brought his documentation of the Assad regime’s brutal atrocities against Syrian detainees to the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and countless civic and educational institutions spanning the globe. Omar Alshogre, SETF’s Director for Detainee Affairs, leads our efforts to document and publicize war crimes committed in Syria’s detention centers.

“The trial in Germany shows that the right of the Syrian people to justice cannot be swept aside,” said Stephen Rapp, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and a member of SETF’s board of advisers. “With continuing support for them and their efforts, this trial will be the first of many.”

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