Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
As of June 2021, the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research, Continuing his role in building cases, preparing documents, witnesses, and now through media associate Luna Watfe, documenting the proceedings of the Koblenz trials on crimes against humanity committed in Syria.
Luna Watfa: “We begin with the proceedings of the hearing that took place on 16.06.2021 in the German city of Koblenz with the trial of the accused Anwar Raslan.”
A new session of the accused Anwar Raslan’s trial began on 16 June 2021. Judge Kerber started by saying that the plaintiff’s lawyer who was present that day had sent the panel of judges a picture by e-mail the previous day and asked him to explain to the parties present.
The witness, M.P, then introduced himself and started by describing his experience in the Syrian regime’s basements.
M P described how he and his family were arrested at the beginning of the revolution during the Hamidiya market demonstration in Damascus in March 2011. His brother and uncle who had participated in the demonstration were arrested and detained for a month in the Al-Khatib branch. Once released, the witness’s brother became one of the organizers of the demonstrations in Damascus and that was when the witness began to participate in them too which explained why, at the end of July 2011, he and his two brothers were wanted by the security forces. Security forces later stormed their house and they were taken to the Al-Khatib branch where they were subjected to the usual methods of torture as soon as they arrived.
M P was first placed in a collective cell where there were approximately 125 detainees, including children as young as nine years old and an elderly man about 80 years old. He then talked about the trumped-up charges for a large number of the such as the possession of weapons and so on. He talked about the bad quality of the food and the small amounts, and how they had to organise their sleeping habits over several days while half of the detainees took turns standing so that the other half could sleep. He also told them about the constant sounds of torture that could be heard especially the electric shocks.
Several days later, he was summoned for an interrogation when the jailer began beating him when he denied the charges against him in relation to his participation in the demonstrations.
The witness and one of his brothers were transferred to a small cell a little later where there were approximately 35 people. Among the detainees, he recognized two people, one of whom spent 9 years in that cell and the other 12 years without any trial whatsoever. He also recognised a detainee from Douma whose body was covered with bruises and cuts to the point that “whoever sees him will think he will soon die”, as he put it, yet the detainee received no medical assistance during the time the witness himself was present in the cell.
The witness spent eleven days in the al-Khatib branch after which he was transferred to the State Security Branch where he was also tortured and placed in a single room that was not more than two meters long by a meter wide with 25 other detainees. In all, the witness spent twenty days in detention during which time he lost about 20 kg, he said.
During his detention inside the State Security Branch, the jailer entered one day and saw that one of the detainees had written the word “God” on the wall. The jailer got angry and started beating them all randomly and shouting: “There is no God; there is only Bashar al-Assad.”
The witness then left the State Security Branch while his brothers were transferred to a military branch near Damascus airport, as they told him later, where they were treated brutally then released after twenty days.
The witness told the judges about the psychological state that accompanied him after his release from detention and the fear of being alone or sleeping at night.
M P was then asked to describe how the security forces responded at the beginning of the demonstrations in Syria as he and his brothers were among the first participants and organizers. He replied that he had witnessed many demonstrators arrested and killed from the beginning and that his uncle was killed by a sniper’s bullet in one of the demonstrations.
When he was asked about the photo from Caesar’s file, he described how his sister’s husband would go out to work every day and return home in the Sbeineh area. However, one day, as a result of the rebels’ control of that area and the many security barriers around it, the area was subjected to violent bombings. Most of the people fled but his brother-in-law refused to go out and he and his family stayed at home until one day he decided to go back to work but he never came back. They learned at the time that he had been arrested at one of the checkpoints in the area which they knew belonged to several security branches, in particular the Al-Khatib branch because it was primarily responsible for that area. The rest of the family fled to the Aleppo countryside except for the witness’s father who was killed during the security invasion of the Daraya area. The family then found his sister’s husband’s photo in Caesar’s online profile which explained why he had included the photo.
Before his testimony in court, the witness had testified to the Federal Criminal Police, just as witnesses usually do, and there he had spoken with a person who was arrested with his brother in March 2011 in the Al-Khatib branch. The person told him that Raslan’s task was to carry out the investigations on detainees and that he was very strict and subjected all detainees to torture. M P’s sister confirmed this information, and told him that their brother was forced to sign papers concerning his confession before he left, and that Raslan threatened to arrest and rape his sisters if he refused to sign, and therefore he had to sign it although it was false.
The hearing ended after Judge Kerber announced that a new witness who was not on the list of witnesses known to the parties to the case but rather a witness named by the Public Prosecution Office would be called. His statements were distributed to the parties to the case so that they could review them before his arrival on 23 June 2021.