Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
My report on the testimony in the Anwar Raslan trial on the 30/06/2021 of a witness in Koblenz who was a civil plaintiff. He described how he had been arrested on 14 February, 2012 and what he had seen on the way to the Al Khatib branch where he saw children killed and arrested by members of the Al Khatib branch.
The regime security forces had launched a raid campaign on his area in Eastern Ghouta and arrested the witness while he was going to work in the morning and put him in an armoured vehicle with a machine gun installed. Once they arrived in Al-Nashabiyeh town, the witness was removed from the vehicle and put into a large bus where he could see everything that was happening around him because the shirt they covered his face with did not completely block his view, he said.
On the way to Al Khatib, the bus stopped in front of a farm in one of the villages in the Eastern Ghouta region where he saw soldiers advancing towards it accompanied by an armoured vehicle. The witness then heard the sound of heavy gunfire which lasted for a quarter of an hour after which the armoured vehicle returned. The witness then described to the judges what he had seen.
“The vehicle stopped to the right of the bus and I could see that it was a Russian-made BMP vehicle. I saw a chilling sight that I will never forget until I die! On the front of the cart I could see a very young child -not older than 15 years old- who had been attached and crucified there, his feet were not even touching the ground and his entire guts spilling from his body.”
He continued after choking over his own words as he described the scene:
“After that, three children got on the bus, the youngest of whom was no more than five years old and the oldest ten years old. They were all crying and trembling with fear. They sat next to me. I put my hand on the head of the youngest and asked him why he was crying and he replied that his brother had just been killed!”
Then addressing the judges:
“You gentlemen are investigating crimes that occurred in the Al Khatib branch but there are many crimes that have occurred on the road that no one knows anything about.”
The witness then described how other detainees were collected at Ibn Al-Walid Hospital for Leprosy Patients in Douma where the security forces used the hospital as a gathering point before directing them to the State Security branches. At about eleven o’clock at night, the witness and other detainees were transferred to the Al-Khatib branch which the witness said that he recognised immediately because he used to frequent the Red Crescent Hospital and other hospitals due to his work as a medical engineer. He described the reception party there where they received severe beatings before entering the cells, the body searches and how detainees were forced to fully strip down.
The cell, as he described it later, measured no more than 25 square meters in all where at least 100 detainees were contained and where temperatures and humidity were high. Sitting comfortably was difficult and lying down impossible. There was little food and one needed to wait several hours to be able to enter the toilet due to overcrowding.
The witness spoke of a friend of his who would sit next to him who had diabetes. They refused to give him medicine until mould started spreading to his toes. Another was brought in with his fingers completely broken, and another was completely out of his mind to the point that he was defecating and urinating on himself and could not stand on his feet at all because he was paralyzed from having been subjected to such severe torture.
The main accusation against the witness concerned the field hospitals.
The medical engineer had been witness to a massacre that took place in the village of al-Abbada in Eastern Ghouta in 2012, where direct bullets were fired at the demonstrators and ambulances were prevented from reaching them. The witness and other doctors had established field hospitals to assist the wounded.
It was for this reason he was subjected to electric shocks, beatings with a cable and his hands and feet being kicked for hours during the interrogations that lasted for ten days. On one occasion he was hit so hard on his genitals that he continued urinating blood for ten days after that. To this day, he explained that nine years later, he still suffered from pain while urinating. He also talked about bugs in the cells, skin diseases and even being hung on the cell door for hours. He was released from detention after 18 days.
As for ill-treatment and torture in hospitals, the witness said that, by virtue of his work, he had visited many of the hospitals while he was carrying out certain repairs in them for his job and had seen what was going on.
He spoke specifically about the Damascus Hospital, or what is known as the Al-Mujtahid Hospital. He described how on one occasion there was an operation lamp which wasn’t functioning correctly and when he entered the room he saw a patient in front of him whose dead body had visibly been cut open. He was convinced that it was a detainee. He later heard from some people that organ trafficking took place in that hospital but he was not a specialist to be able to confirm the fact.
The witness concluded by saying that when one saw the Al-Mujtahid Hospital, one would never imagine that it was a civilian hospital because there were more armed men in the ambulance department than civilians. Injured detainees were taken there and then they disappeared forever. He added that one of whom he knew well had disappeared in that way.