In a historic verdict, a German court on Wednesday sentenced a former Assad regime intelligence officer to jail time for crimes against humanity.
The trial in the western German city of Koblenz was the first ever over atrocities committed by the Assad regime.
Eyad al-Garib got four and a half years in prison for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity in a Damascus prison.
The Higher Regional Court of Koblenz said he arrested at least 30 protesters and accompanied their transport to Al-Khatib prison in Syria’s capital, where he knew they would be subjected to systematic torture.
Lawyer Patrick Kroker, who represented survivors at the trial, welcomed the landmark ruling.
“Today’s verdict is the first time a court has confirmed that the acts of the Syrian regime and its collaborators are crimes against humanity,” he said in a statement.
“Testimonies by survivors of torture and intelligence officers as well as the ‘Caesar’ photos prove the extent and systemic nature of enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence in Syria,” he added, referring to photographs of detainees tortured by Syrian regime forces, which were smuggled out in January 2014 by a defected military police photographer codenamed “Caesar”.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the ruling has a “historic” significance as it showed that the crimes of the Syrian regime would not go unpunished.
“That is a historic verdict. It is the first judgment that holds those responsible for torture in Syria accountable and it delivers at least some degree of justice. The decision has a high symbolic meaning for many people, not only in Syria,” he said on Twitter.
The two former intelligence officers of the Syrian regime were arrested in Germany in 2019, following years long investigation assisted by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights.
The trial of Anwar Raslan, who was charged with rape, aggravated sexual assault, and 58 murders, is expected to continue until at least October 2021.
Raslan, 57, was a senior official of the Assad Intelligence Directorate until September 2012, and in addition to murder, he is accused of torturing at least 4,000 people at Al-Khatib prison.
Al-Garib, 43, worked in a subdivision of Syrian intelligence between July 2011 and January 2012.