It is his “milestone in international law”: The world’s first judgment against Syrian state torture triggers numerous reactions. Justice Minister Buschmann hopes for imitators all over the world.
A decade after the start of the Syrian civil war, a German court has passed a historic verdict: life imprisonment for a man allegedly responsible for torture in a prison. Read more about this here. This has provoked numerous reactions, there is talk of a “milestone in international law”.
Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann described the world’s first judgment against Syrian state torture as “pioneering work” and is hoping for courts in other countries. The Koblenz judge’s verdict deserves to be noticed worldwide, said the FDP politician. “I would appreciate it if other constitutional states follow this example. Those who have committed crimes against humanity must nowhere find safe places to retreat.”
Terrible injustice had taken place in the Assad regime’s torture prisons. According to Minister Buschmann, the verdict makes it clear that crimes against humanity should not go unpunished: “No matter where they are committed, no matter who perpetrates them – that is the great and powerful conviction on which international criminal law is based.”
The well-known human rights activist Omar al-Schughri (26), who was himself a victim of torture in Syria, told the German press agency: “The symbolic value of the verdict is proof of how trauma drives us to rebuild things from them we never thought it could ever be achieved. Our past is a weapon against our enemies. “
The verdict will not heal the broken heart of every mother whose son has been killed under torture, nor will it bring victims back to their families. “But it gives us hope that the regime will fall and we will be free.”
A Syrian woman with pictures of her partner and her son who disappeared in prisons of the Assad regime: a former interrogator has now been convicted. (Source: Thomas Frey / dpa)
The domestic political spokeswoman for the parliamentary group of the Greens, Lamya Kaddor, said after the verdict: “The life sentence for a higher-ranking torturer of the Syrian regime is a milestone in international law and another blow by the rule of law against impunity for war criminals.” Anwar R. has now been “brought to his just punishment”.
Kaddor referred to further arrest warrants against high-ranking Syrian officials that are available in Germany. In her first speech as a member of the Bundestag on Wednesday, she said: “I am here as a German and the daughter of Syrian immigrants, whose parents would never have thought it possible to hear their child speak at this point.”
Human rights activists see the conviction of the accused in the criminal proceedings for state torture in Syria as a “groundbreaking step” towards justice. “The verdict is a significant moment for civilians who survived torture and sexual abuse in Syrian prisons,” said Human Rights Watch.
The Syrian government continues to commit the most serious crimes against humanity, said the Secretary General of Amnesty in Germany, Markus Beeko. “In 2021, tens of thousands of people were the victims of systematic torture, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances by Syrian ‘security forces.” The organization expects further processes in Germany and other countries.
The German Association of Judges (DRB) also attaches great importance to the judgment. The court decision “sends the important signal to the perpetrators and their victims: War criminals must expect prosecution in Germany,” said DRB Federal Managing Director Sven Rebehn. “The work of the German judiciary in the area of international criminal law is considered exemplary internationally.”
However, it is “extremely time-consuming and tedious to investigate crimes committed abroad in German courts in each individual case.” Against this background, Rebehn praised “that the new federal government has now resolved to further strengthen the Federal Prosecutor’s Office and the competent courts for this important task”.
The Higher Regional Court of Koblenz had sentenced the 58-year-old Syrian Anwar R. to life imprisonment, among other things for crimes against humanity. According to the State Security Senate, as the head of interrogation in a General Secret Service prison, he was responsible for the torture of at least 4,000 people. The verdict is not yet legally binding.