It’s a first. German justice on Wednesday, February 24, sentenced a former member of the Syrian intelligence services to four and a half years in prison for “Complicity in crimes against humanity” in the context of the first trial linked to the abuses attributed to the Bashar Al-Assad regime.
Eyad Al-Gharib, 44, was found guilty by the regional high court of Koblenz (Rhineland-Palatinate) of having participated in the arrest in September or October 2011 of at least thirty demonstrators in Douma, near Damascus, and their transfer to an intelligence service detention center.
The accused hid his face with a file in front of the cameras and listened to his verdict, staring, with a medical mask on his face. The court remained below the requisitions of the prosecution which had requested five and a half years.
As the tenth anniversary of the start of the popular uprising in Syria approaches, on March 15, 2011, it is the first time in the world that a court has ruled on a case related to the brutal and bloody repression by Damascus of protests for freedom organized within the framework of the “Arab Spring”.
Complicity in crimes against humanity
Eyad Al-Gharib is the first of the two defendants who appear since April 23 before the high regional court of Koblenz to receive his sentence, the judges having chosen to split the proceedings in two.
The second accused, Anwar Raslan, 58, considered much more central in the vast Syrian security apparatus, is being prosecuted for “Crimes against humanity” for the death of fifty-eight people and the torture of four thousand detainees in particular. The trial of this former colonel is expected to last at least until the end of October.
To try them, Germany applies the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows the perpetrators of the most serious crimes to be prosecuted regardless of their nationality and where the crimes were committed.
Appeals to national courts in Germany, Sweden and France are increasing at the initiative of the large Syrian diaspora who have taken refuge in Europe. They are, at present, the only possibility to judge the abuses perpetrated in Syria due to the paralysis of international justice.
“An almost industrial scale” of torture
Eyad Al-Gharib officiated in the lowest echelons of intelligence before deserting in 2012 and then finally fleeing Syria in February 2013. Arrived on April 25, 2018 in Germany after a long journey in Turkey and then in Greece, he never concealed his past.
It was even when he recounted his winding journey to the authorities responsible for deciding his asylum application that the German justice system began to take an interest in him, which led to his arrest in February 2019. The prosecution assures that he was a cog in a system where torture was practiced with “An almost industrial scale”.
Remained in the shadow of Anwar Raslan during the ten months of the hearing, Eyad Al-Gharib remained silent and hid his face from the cameras. He nevertheless wrote a letter in which he expressed his grief for the victims.
A civil party lawyer, Patrick Kroker, lamented his silence. People “His rank can be very important in informing us about the [responsables syriens] that we are really aiming for, but it is something he chose not to do ”, he said.
More than a dozen Syrians took the stand to testify to the appalling abuse they endured in Al-Khatib prison. Some witnesses were interviewed anonymously, their faces hidden or wearing a wig for fear of reprisals against their relatives still in Syria.
For the first time, photos of the “Caesar file” were also presented in court. This ex-photographer of the military police exfiltrated, at the risk of his life, fifty thousand photographs showing 6,786 Syrian detainees frozen by a brutal death, starving and tortured.
Photos that were analyzed in court by a forensic pathologist, Professor Markus Rothschild, constituting overwhelming material evidence.
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