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Koblenz Trial 08.12.2021, Closing statement of witness and plaintiff Wassim Miqdad before Koblenz Court « Torture in Syria is a method of governance »

Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer

Report on 8/12/21 for the hearings of the witness and plaintiff, Wissam Miqdad.

What is appreciated in life is not what we have experienced in this life, but the difference we have made in the lives of others. It determines the meaning of the life we have ​​lived and strived for .” Nelson Mandela

Honorable Judges, Public Prosecution, Honorable Lawyers, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Five hundred and ninety-five days since the first session on April 23, 2020.

Five hundred and ninety-five days of testimonies and pleadings about facts that happened and are still happening, unfortunately, in the prisons and detention centers of the Syrian regime.

Five hundred and ninety-five days of horrific details recounted by survivors of the scourge and torment of oppression and tyranny under Bashar al-Assad and his henchmen’s rule. The survivors who managed to escape are living in Europe, far from the direct threats of the Syrian repressive apparatus, details some of which I personally lived and mentioned in my testimony before your esteemed court on August 19, 2020.

Today and every day I ask myself and I wonder how many details we have not and will not be able to hear because of the death of their owners under direct torture or because of ill-treatment and poor sanitary conditions in the prisons. How many details have we not been able to obtain because those who lived them cannot share them with us, as they still live in the detention centers controlled by their jailers, who act as if they have the right to decide life and death?

Honorable Judges, Public Prosecution, Honorable Lawyers, Ladies and Gentlemen :

We are here to witness the trial of the former colonel of the Syrian General Intelligence, Anwar Raslan, and as soon as I mention these words, “a colonel in the intelligence,” I feel a flash of lingering deep fear. We have been raised with fear since our childhood because of the crimes committed by intelligence officers in Syria, and for decades.

Fear has been felt by generations of Syrians in general as a result of the atrocities we have heard about, often in private sessions with those close to us such as our friends and families, and everyone speaks in a whisper as “walls have ears” as it is said in Syria. And should a single sentence reach those officers’ ears that does not satisfy them it may lead the one who speaks and the one who listens to it into the unknown.

Torture in Syria, unfortunately, is not a new practice. Torture in Syria is a method of governance on which successive regimes have been based since the 1950s until this day and even at the moment I am talking to you.

Repressive regimes, including the Syrian regime under the rule of former President Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar al-Assad, have become accustomed to the fact that the response to any opposition or political, social or economic demands is torture and violence, not dialogue or discussion.

In Syria, social political activity is considered a form of suicide because of the looming dangers that await those who try to propose change, whatever the type of change. Changing a dictator’s custom is dangerous, and demanding as it is an unforgivable crime, and the response to it can only be violence and bloodshed.

This response comes at the hands of officers and intelligence agents who are well versed in tools and types of torture and violence. They do it in cold blood and do not even hesitate to kill in order to preserve the dictator’s power and their own positions in his system.

The charges against the accused, Anwar Raslan, are just the tip of this dark iceberg.

The killing of 58 people and the torture of more than 4,000 others, along with accusations of sexual assault, and other chilling details for those following the trial has demonstrated what the accused has been doing for months and years in cold blood, which only proves that he is a dangerous criminal who should be behind bars.

I turn to your justice, bearing in mind this criminal’s harm was not limited to his direct victims, but it also affected their families and friends. We are talking about 4,000 families who suffered as a result of the crimes of Anwar Raslan, and all of this is documented. We are talking about a generation, if not generations, that suffered from repression and double deprivation as a result of what Anwar Raslan has done in serving the machine of oppression in Syria.

What could be considered a more severe crime than for someone who tortures you, kills you, or forcibly tears you away from your family, depriving you of any contact with them, or doing all of this collectively and systematically as a direct punishment because you demanded your rights?

Honorable Judges, Public Prosecution, Honorable Lawyers, Ladies and Gentlemen :

I stand before you today demanding justice. I do not seek revenge or retribution. The Syria that I dream of and that I struggle for and for which I continue to struggle must be based on the foundations of justice and the rule of law, not on violence, counter-violence, revenge and the law of the jungle.

I do not know what a just sentence should be for crimes of such magnitude committed by the accused but I know for sure that it will be the first judicial ruling against a Syrian intelligence officer as a punishment for his practices while he was on the job.

The trial of Anwar Raslan will not put an end to the torment to the suffering of the Syrians.

Those ongoing tortures, some of which were documented in the tenth annual report on enforced disappearances in Syria, issued by the Syrian Network for Human Rights on August 30, 2021 state there are 131,469 people still under arrest or detention or subjected to enforced disappearance in Syria by the Syrian regime from March 2011 until August 2021.

131,469 families are awaiting the verdict of your esteemed court.

Your judgment can protect these 131,469 currently detained persons from the bite of an executioner’s whip and may even save the rest of their lives.

The verdict will be the result of a fair trial and legal procedures that allowed the accused to appoint lawyers to plead in his name and defend him, as well as allowing him to communicate with the world outside his prison. It is a trial that has taken into account the accused’s dignity and treated him as an innocent until proven guilty. It is completely the opposite to everything that the accused has consciously done during his many years of service as an officer in Syrian intelligence since 1995, especially since he was a graduate of the Faculty of Law.

Honorable Judges, Public Prosecution, Honorable Lawyers, Ladies and Gentlemen :

As Syrians, we look forward to the day when our country, like other developed countries, will be a country that respects our rights and does not attack its citizens. We look forward to the day when we are not treated in ways that have nothing to do with human rights. We look forward to a future in which torture and forced confessions will not be accepted either politically or socially.

We are tired of the intransigence of the Syrian state, where our blood has been shed for decades where no one is held accountable and where there are political discussions with many countries to restore relations with this criminal regime with a deliberate and humiliating disregard for the suffering and struggle of the Syrians who seek a better future that includes all of us.

Your judgment is the first step on this long road: a ruling that conveys in a clear and unambiguous voice that the criminal will be held accountable sooner or later: a ruling that respects human dignity and freedom as inviolable rights.

If this issue may be evident in Germany, and in many other countries in the world, for me and for many Syrians it remains a dream that we strive for.

Your verdict is a resounding condemnation of torture as a crime in the first place.

Torture is a crime against humanity wherever it is committed, in Syria or any other part of this world and its condemnation is what we have been waiting for for decades in my country.

Yes, the road is long and will not end until the entire system appears before the courts, especially the head of the Syrian regime represented by Bashar al-Assad, and the senior officers of his army and intelligence, as well as all criminals from any other party.

Honorable Judges, Public Prosecution, Honorable Lawyers, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I thank you on my behalf and on behalf of many Syrians, whether inside the country under regime rule, in displacement camps inside Syria, or in asylum in neighbouring countries.

I speak in the name of the many who had the desire and the courage to stand here before you and testify, but they did not have this opportunity because they either drowned at sea or froze in the forests on the borders on their journey to reach a safe country, a journey which brought them great suffering on those borders where they were treated as criminals by those who were expected to help them as victims.

It is not the story of the Syrians alone.

Repression is the enemy of humanity, because it kills the most beautiful thing that makes us human: ambition. Injustice is the enemy of societies because it divides even brothers from one another and as the Arab poet Al-Mutanabbi said in the 10th century:

“Injustice cuts ties between people, even if they were ties of blood.”

I bow to the justice of your court and I wish you strength and wisdom to accord the right opinion and advice for a just verdict.

Thank you.”