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Syrians file complaint in Germany over rape, sexual abuse and torture in Assad's dungeons Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Syrians file complaint in Germany over rape, sexual abuse and torture in Assad's dungeons

A Syrian campaigner protests outside a German trial against two alleged former regime officers [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 18 June, 2020

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Syrians who suffered or witnessed rape and sexual abuse in detention centres under the Assad regime have submitted a criminal complaint to prosecutors in Germany.

Seven Syrians who suffered or witnessed rape and sexual abuse in detention centres under President Bashar al-Assad's regime have submitted a criminal complaint to prosecutors in Germany, an NGO supporting them said Thursday.

The four women and three men were held in various detention centres in Damascus, Aleppo and Hama between April 2011 and August 2013, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a Berlin-based legal group said in a statement.

They were all victims or witnesses of torture and sexual violence, including rape, electrical shocks to the genitals... and forced abortion, the ECCHR said.

The German federal prosecutor's office in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe was not immediately available for comment.

The plaintiffs named nine senior Syrian regime officials in their complaint, including Jamil Al-Hassan, a former close associate of Assad and head of the air force intelligence services until 2019.

Hassan is already the subject of an international arrest warrant from Germany and France on suspicion of crimes against humanity.

Sexual and gender-based violence in Syrian detention facilities "were and continue to be part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population" since the Syrian war started in 2011, according to the ECCHR.

"I want the international community and judicial authorities to know what we went through just because we are women," said one of the victims.

In April, the first court case worldwide over state-sponsored torture by the Assad regime opened in Germany.

The two defendants in the case are being tried on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows for the prosecution of foreign individuals for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Syria's civil war, which started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests, has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced nearly half the country's pre-conflict population.

Read more: Prosecuting Assad's henchmen must be the start of holding Syria's torturers to account

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group estimates that at least 100,000 people have died from torture or as a result of the terrible conditions in regime prisons.

Half a million people have gone through regime jails since 2011, it says.

Several thousand people have died over the same period in prisons run by jihadists or other rebel groups, according to the Observatory.

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