Verdict for landmark Syria torture trial held in Germany to be announced 'soon': HRW

Verdict for landmark Syria torture trial held in Germany to be announced 'soon': HRW
2 min read
06 January, 2022
The second verdict in a Syria torture trial held in Germany will be announced soon, HRW has said.
The verdict in a watershed case for torture survivors and international justice is expected this month in Koblenz, Germany [AFP via Getty]

The verdict of a landmark case for survivors of torture in Syria being held in Germany will be announced soon, human rights organization Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The trial, which takes place in Koblenz, Germany, is the first in the world for state-sponsored torture by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's regime.

It involves charges of crimes against humanity against alleged former Syrian intelligence official Eyad A. with the verdict to be announced this month, the human rights body announced.

"This trial is a reminder that Germany will not shelter war criminals and that those responsible for atrocities will be held accountable," said Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.

Hearings for the trial began in April 2020 in Koblenz and over 80 witnesses have testified so far, including former Syrian detainees, experts in Syrian affairs, police investigators, and a forensic doctor.

Eyad A., was sentenced in February 2021 to four and a half years in prison for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, but he has appealed the verdict.

A verdict is expected this month for the second defendant, Anwar R., 58, who is accused of crimes against humanity, including overseeing the murder of 58 people and the torture of 4,000 others. 

He is alleged to have committed these crimes as head of the investigations section at the Syrian intelligence's Al-Khatib detention facility in Damascus, also known as "Branch 251".

The two men are being tried on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute suspects for crimes against humanity, including war crimes and genocide, regardless of where they were committed.

Thousands have died in Syrian regime custody from various abuses and torture. The Syrian regime continues to arbitrarily detain Syrians in areas under its control.

Justice for survivors and victims of torture via the International Criminal Court has been blocked by Russia and China, who in 2014 vetoed a resolution at the United Nations Security Council to grant the court a mandate over serious crimes committed in Syria.

As a result of this international legal paralysis, Syrians who have sought refuge in Europe have started several cases in Germany, France and Sweden.