By Ayhan Simsek
Thirteen Syrian nationals who claim to have been tortured by the regime before fleeing to Germany have filed legal complaints against senior officials of the Bashar al-Assad regime, their lawyers announced on Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, Syrian lawyer Anwar al-Bunni said their legal action provided further evidence on oft-reported crimes committed in regime prisons.
“Those who committed these crimes continued until now because they thought nobody could hold them accountable,” he said.
“But now they have to rethink that. There is no safe place for them in the whole world,” he added.
Germany’s legal system allows filing lawsuits against suspects in cases of crimes against humanity, irrespective of where the crimes were committed, and irrespective of the citizenship of the victims or the perpetrators.
Lawyers said they filed two new criminal complaints against 17 senior officials who are accused of being responsible for the systematic torture and mass executions in regime prisons, including Saydnaya, Mezzeh and the Aleppo Air Force Intelligence Branch.
Torture and war crimes
Yazan Awad, who said he was tortured for months at the Mezzeh Air Force Intelligence Investigation Branch prison, expressed hope for their legal action.
“For me, the criminal complaint in Germany is currently the only way to fight for justice. It’s not just about me, it’s about all those who are still being held in Assad’s torture prisons,” he said.
Shappal Ibrahim, who was detained for about 18 months at the Saydnaya military prison, said they expected that German authorities issue arrest warrants for those suspected for being behind the war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
“I am willing to assist with the prosecutor’s investigations if needed. I want to help ensure that the German authorities issue arrest warrants for the people responsible for the crimes of the military police and intelligence services,” he said.
Germany’s federal public prosecutor in Karlsruhe has been investigating since 2011 torture and war crimes that the UN has repeatedly said have been committed by the Bashar al-Assad regime.
The prosecutor has been gathering evidence, which can eventually be used in the future, should the UN set up an international war crimes tribunal for Syria.
The most recent criminal complaints were compiled by the collaboration of several NGOs, including the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research (SCLSR), the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) and Heinrich Boell Stiftung.