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Syrian activists welcome Germany's historic Syria regime torture conviction Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Syrian activists welcome Germany's historic Syria regime torture conviction

Human rights lawyer welcomes the move [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 February, 2021

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The conviction of Eyad Al-Gharib is a historic moment for Syrian victims of torture.
The conviction of a Syrian intelligence officer for his role in crimes against humanity has been welcomed by activists and human rights groups, but said the fight will continue to hold more members of the regime security services to account.

Eyad Al-Gharib was a member of the Syrian intelligence during the regime's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011, before defecting in 2012.

He was arrested by German police in 2019 over his alleged role in the torture of more than 30 detainees.

On Wednesday, a German court found him guilty of being complicit in the detention, torture, and murder of Syrian pro-democracy protesters in 2011.

The historic ruling, under "universal jurisdiction", paves the way for more prosecutions of more members of Bashar Al-Assad's feared security apparatus now living in German.

While Al-Gharib was a relatively low-level player in the Syrian intelligence services, the trial of a high-ranking officer over the alleged torture of more than 4,000 people is still ongoing.

Al-Gharib's jailing will bring some relief to victims of the Assad regime and the verdict was warmly welcomed by some of those who fought hard to bring the suspects to trial and the case to international attention.

"The Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research strongly welcomes this decision and considers it a historic one, and a bright spot in the history of the Germany judiciary and the history of global justice," the group, headed by human rights lawyer Anwar Al-Bunni, said in a statement.

"The decision is historic because for the first time a decision was issued against a criminal belonging to the Syrian regime and who committed crimes within the systematic security system."

The Syrian regime has detained tens of thousands of people since the start of the 2011 uprising, many of them for taking part in protests or peaceful activism.

Conditions in these detention centres are brutal, with rampant torture, shortages of food, overcrowding, and widespread disease.
 
The Syrian Network of Human Rights believes that at least 14,000 Syrians have been tortured to death and 127,000 have died in detention or remain in custody.

Wassim Mukdad, a Berlin-based musician who was a witness in the Al-Gharib's trial, welcomed the court's verdict, saying that some justice has been achieved for victims of the Assad regime.

"This trial is important because it represents an opening to the Syrian judicial systems that the regime shut down and an alternative to the international judicial process under the United Nations which was vetoed by Russia and China. This trial is a ray of hope that there are other judicial options," he said in a statement, shared by The Syria Campaign.

"Any verdict would have been too little compared to the crimes. But this is just the beginning and the day will come when Bashar al Assad and his cronies, the army and intelligence generals are put on trial."

Wafa Mustafa, a Berlin-based activist whose father was detained in Syria seven-years-ago, said this is a step towards justice for all detainees.

"This is a historic moment for every Syrian and for the families of more than 130,000 people detained and disappeared, it's yet another urgent call for the release of all political prisoners still held in Assad's jails. The crime of detention continues today in Syria and so many lives can still be saved," she said in the statement.

"We should be witnessing Assad on trial at the International Criminal Court but this is the first step towards true accountability and justice."

Amnesty International, which has played a key role in highlighting the issue, also welcomed the verdict.

"Today's historic verdict - the first of its kind for crimes under international law committed by a Syrian government official - is a resounding victory for the tens of thousands of Syrian torture survivors and victims of enforced disappearance," said Lynn MaaloufAmnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"It also sends a clear message to the Syrian government that those responsible for horrific violations will be brought to justice. This verdict comes almost 10 years after the first peaceful protests started in Syria - years during which the state deployed its machinery of cruelty against its own people, across its detention centers and prisons."

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