World, Europe

German court may indict Assad for war crimes

Federal prosecutors investigating evidence of 2013 chemical attack in Ghouta, according to German media

Ayhan Şimşek   | 27.11.2020
German court may indict Assad for war crimes

BERLIN

German prosecutors are investigating the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons in 2013, and they may indict the highest regime figures based on the evidence gathered so far, leading media outlets reported on Friday.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe is currently examining the criminal complaint filed by three non-government organizations that documented the war crime in Syria, and the role of the senior regime figures in August 2013 attack on Ghouta, Germany’s international broadcaster DW and weekly Der Spiegel reported.

According to witness statements and documentation seen by DW, Bashar al-Assad is believed to have authorized his brother Maher Assad to conduct the attack, in which rockets loaded with sarin warheads were used, killing nearly 1,400 civilians, including more than 400 children.

Maher Assad, one of the most powerful figures of the regime, gave the official order at an operational level, according to the documents.

“From there, an elite group within the Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) dubbed Branch 450 would have loaded warheads with chemical agents and the 155th Missile Brigade would have launched the surface-to-surface rockets under direct oversight from Maher,” DW reported.

The witness statements and documents on the Ghouta attack were gathered by the non-government organizations -- the Open Society Justice Initiative, the Syrian Archive, and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression.

The NGOs also presented evidence and witness statements on the 2017 chemical attack on the opposition-held Khan Sheikhoun, which killed 100 civilians, including dozens of children.

Germany’s unique legislation the “Code of Crimes against International Law” gives courts universal jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity, and they can open full investigation into such crimes, even when they were not committed within its territory.

Earlier this year, a regional court in the south-western German town of Koblenz opened the first trial worldwide on Assad regime’s crimes against humanity, by hearing evidence against two former Syrian intelligence officers who were arrested last year.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.​​​​​​​

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