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Koblenz Court 13.01.2022: ruling following landmark trial against Anwar Raslan accused of complicity in crimes against humanity in Branch 251, Syria

Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer

« Violence was not only used individually and occasionally but also as part of a comprehensive regime strategy as lethal arms were used to crush demonstrations »

“the Syrian people were meant to be forced to comply and obey”

Luna Watfa presents the Koblenze Regional Court press office’s summary in Arabic of the text of the court’s decision against the accused, Anwar Raslan, which was issued on January 13, 2022, with an excerpt from it reproduced and translated here into English.

The State Protection Judicial Council, the first criminal justice council, at the German Koblenz Higher Regional Court today 13 January 2022 sentenced the Syrian national Anwar Raslan to life imprisonment for a crime against humanity and murder among other things – a sentence against an element presumed to belong to the Syrian intelligence service.

« The 58-year-old former public prosecutor, Anwar Raslan, is sentenced to life imprisonment for a crime against humanity in the form of causing death, torture, severe deprivation of liberty, rape and sexual coercion in combination with murder in 27 incidents, serious physical activity in 25 incidents, a particularly aggravated crime of rape, a crime of sexual coercion in two incidents, a crime of deprivation of liberty continuing for more than a week in 14 incidents, a crime of hostage-taking in two incidents and a crime of sexual abuse of prisoners in three incidents. »

Results of filing and listening to evidence convinced the Judicial Council that the evidence established justified a public lawsuit being brought against the former public prosecutor from Branch 251 Anwar Raslan.

The Widespread and Systematic Attack on the Syrian Civilian Population.

The defendant, Anwar Raslan was found complicit as a participant in the regime’s crime of a widespread and systematic attack on the Syrian civilian population where 27 people were killed and 4,000 people deprived of their physical freedom and tortured in a grave manner during their period of detention in prison, namely the Syrian General Intelligence Service’s Branch 251 in Damascus.

According to verification by the Judicial Council, the Syrian regime launched a widespread and systematic attack from the end of April 2011 against the civilian population of the state itself. In early 2011, the so-called “Arab Spring” had spread to include Syria. When protests had expanded in scope across Syria, a « Central Crisis Management Cell » was formed. This cell was directly subordinate to the presidency of the President of the State, Bashar al-Assad, issuing orders and instructions to all security agencies regarding the procedures to be applied in order to confront the protest movement.

In April 2011, the Central Crisis Management Cell decided the protests would be suppressed by using force of arms, whatever the cost, in order to support the stability of the regime. Achieving this purpose meant people should be prevented from participating in demonstrations or rallies or pursuing other activities and that the entire population should be sustainably intimidated so they would refrain from such activities.

The security services and, in particular, the Syrian intelligence service undertook the task of implementing the instructions issued by the “Central Crisis Management Cell”. These services resorted to the use of lethal arms to crush protests and demonstrations.

On a daily basis, large numbers of people who actually opposed the regime, or were suspected of being opponents to the regime, were arrested and taken to the intelligence services prisons, among them, the Syrian General Intelligence Service’s Branch 251 prison in Damascus. There, prisoners were arrested, ill-treated, abused and tortured where they could not count on a legal case or judicial procedure according to the rules of a state of law.

There began a period where violence was not only used individually and incidentally but rather intentionally as part of an overall strategy by Bashar al Assad’s regime:

“the Syrian people were meant to be forced to comply and obey”

According to the Judicial Council’s assessment, this attack on the Syrian civilian population was not only extensive in quantitative terms but also systematic in qualitative terms of methods applied.

Defendant’s participation in crimes committed in Branch 251 Interrogations Department.

The Judicial Council concluded that the prison attached to the Branch 251 Interrogation Department of Syrian General Intelligence Service in Damascus was holding an estimated number of at least 4,000 detainees from late April 2011 until early September 2012.

Prisoners were brutally tortured when interrogated in various ways, for example, beaten with cables or batons, kicked and subjected to electric shocks. Sexual violence was also used intended to insult and humiliate prisoners. Apart from interrogations, detainees were also subject to mistreatment by prison staff and held under inhumane and degrading prison conditions in a highly overcrowded prison.

In addition to the physical violence and torture the prisoners were personally subjected to, they were deliberately exposed to the constant cries of pain emanating from their fellow detainees who were being tortured in the prison at the same time resulting in mental health suffering too.

In the particularly overcrowded cells, sleep for the prisoners was difficult obliged to take turns while medical care was withheld and also denied. At the same time, the food distributed was insufficient and in many cases inedible.

From late April 2011 until early September 2012, 27 detainees died as a result of torture, other ill-treatment, inadequate sanitation or generally poor conditions of detention in Branch 251.

With regard to the defendant’s role in the public lawsuit, the Judicial Council verified that he was indeed a member of the Syrian General Intelligence Service and worked in a prominent position in this service. He headed the interrogation department in Branch 251, also called the Al-Khatib branch, affiliated with the Syrian General Intelligence Service, in Damascus and its surroundings.

The public lawsuit was brought against him for this very reason based on his position as the prison specialist attached to the Interrogations Section at Branch 251. In his capacity as head of the Interrogations Section, he was considered responsible for the events that occurred there, including those that occurred in prison at the time of the crimes from April 2011 to September 2012. He was responsible for monitoring, reporting and substantially determining the conduct of the prison and therefore had control over the crimes committed during that period.

For the Judicial Council, the defendant had not personally carried out the crimes , yet the Council considered these crimes should be attributed to him based on his authority to report and issue orders in the Interrogations Section. Based on this reason, the defendant was sentenced as a participant in the crimes committed from April 2011 to September 2012.

Murder for Vile Motives.

During the period the crimes were committed, 27 people died in Al-Khatib prison as a result of the ill-treatment they were subjected to. In this regard, the Judicial Council considered with respect to this degree that the standard character of murder for a vile motive had been fulfilled by the person against whom the public prosecution was being brought.

The public lawsuit against Raslan was determined by his professional career as public prosecutor in Branch 251 where a part of his job was associated with Syrian intelligence services whose intentions were to combat peaceful political opponents even leading up to their physical liquidation.

This struggle was aimed at preventing the fall of Bashar al Assad’s totalitarian regime. By all means, the defendant wanted to preserve his prestigious social status as a colonel in the General Intelligence Service while maintaining the privileges associated with his situation. For the Judicial Council, this reality revealed the existence of despicable motives.

 There is No Justified Emergency.

The Defense team adopted the view the public lawsuit against the defendant was due to a justified emergency situation (Article 35 of the Penal Code) meaning he could not be held accountable for his crime. His departure from his office and his estrangement from the Syrian regime would have been a life-threatening situation for him and his family. Besides, he feared retaliation from the regime.

However, the Judicial Council has denied the existence of a justified emergency.

The Judicial Council found Raslan had fled from Syria in December 2012. Yet, according to the Judicial Council’s conviction, it was evident he could clearly have left Syria at an earlier period. In view of the gravity of the crimes committed, it was reasonable for the person against whom the public lawsuit was brought to disavow and avoid committing these crimes, even if they were initiated and accepted at a greater personal risk.