Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
The witness was tortured in several ways even subjected to electric shocks yet she still believed she was more fortunate than other detainees. My report on the testimony of a civil prosecutor against the accused Anwar Raslan on 07/21/2021
A civil rights plaintiff came to testify before the court about her experience when she was arrested by the al-Khatib branch. She spoke in German and not in Arabic and was in fact the first female witness to give her testimony to the court in German and the third in general after the Red Crescent Hospital doctor and the civil plaintiff, Mr. Waseem Miqdad. The plaintiff indicated that she had participated politically in the revolution from its inception.
On March 17, 2012, she was stopped at a military checkpoint while returning to Damascus from outside Syria. All her personal identification papers and belongings were confiscated and she was taken to a small security branch in an area in the Damascus western countryside. In the evening, she was allowed to return home provided she came back to the al-Khatib branch the following day. However, she did not do so because of what she had heard about this branch at the time and she feared going there.
The plaintiff finally returned to the Al-Khatib branch in early April because her official documents had been confiscated. So on the first day she went to the branch and waited until the evening when she was informed as no one was there that day it would be better to come back the following day.
The next day, she met the person who would be her interrogator for the next two months. At first he treated her gently until he realised that she was not giving the information he was seeking. From this moment on, his treatment with her changed and she was transferred to a second room where she was tortured several times. The interrogation and torture lasted for about fifty days with about 10 separate days in between. The plaintiff was forced to spend the night in Al-Khatib branch when she was tortured and was allowed to sleep at her home for the rest of the other days and return in the morning to the Branch.
As concerned the methods of torture they practiced on her, the plaintiff told the panel of judges she had no knowledge of why she was tortured but she was strung up several times by her wrists and remained like that for several hours; she was hit on the head a lot and also tortured with electricity which was the worst. She added that she did not confess to anything despite the torture, which made her wonder every time why she was being tortured so much without implicating herself in anything.
“It was a very strange situation in the branch because the interrogator who had started out with me so kindly and offered me a cup of coffee became completely transformed into another person once in the torture room.”
As for torture with a sexual background, the witness added they not only tortured her with electricity on her fingers and knees, but also on her chest and shoulders, yet, when one of the wardens put his head in her lap another jailer told him to stop and he moved away from her.
When she was forced to sleep in the al-Khatib branch, the plaintiff was placed in a single cell, and her description corresponded to everything previously mentioned by other witnesses. She also mentioned hearing the sounds of torture of others, including women.
The plaintiff was asked if the interrogator had verbally insulted her as well and she replied he had and here she was asked to mention these insults. The witness repeated some of them and then hesitated as some were so rude. The judges insisted on hearing all of them and asked her to say them in Arabic if she could not in German so the translator translated them for all.
When asked if she had previously seen the accused Anwar Raslan, she replied he was not the investigator responsible for interrogating her yet he was present several times in the interrogation room though he said and did nothing. She was then asked if she had been tortured in his presence and she replied he was present several times in particular when she was hit on her head and as he was there, she thought he might help her but he did nothing.
During the period she was obliged to go to the Al-Khatib branch, the plaintiff also participated in a demonstration and was consequently arrested by the General Intelligence Department Branch 285. She did not have her ID card with her as the Al-Khatib Branch had kept it but she did have her driver’s license, so she was detained for only one day and was released on the second day after charges were brought against her.
The charges indicated: she had contacts with the Opposition which weakened the psyche of the nation; the demonstration was not legal because it was not licensed; it was spreading false news about Syria. She then signed a pledge that she would not repeat such activities and was released.
The plaintiff did not tell the investigator from the al-Khatib branch what had happened to her even though he always called her at her home when she was not forced to sleep at the al-Khatib branch. Here the judges asked her why he called her and what he wanted and she replied that he was always reassuring her and asking her if she needed anything. He sometimes called to tell her when she should return to the branch or she would tell him if she would be late or not.
The witness also confirmed she had heard about what had happened to many of her friends when arrested and,, in comparison, her arrest turned out to be much better. She also added she had heard many bad stories, not only about Al-Khatib branch, but also about many security branches in Syria, and that some of her friends had been arrested and disappeared or were killed under torture. The civil rights prosecution lawyers wanted to know how many of her friends had been arrested and when it occurred. The plaintiff replied that the regime began detaining activists at the beginning of the revolution in March 2011.
As from September 2011, her personal situation became difficult when her friends began getting arrested. Sometimes they were released after a week or sometimes they would hear of others who were killed or transferred to another branch. In total, eleven of her friends were arrested during that period, at least four of them by the al-Khatib branch and some were killed under torture.
By the end of her testimony, the plaintiff confirmed once again that her arrest was a very private situation and she had received special treatment as she was allowed to return home at times or was placed in a cell alone and not with any others when at the Branch. She repeated she was still grateful to that day because she was still alive.
It is likely the plaintiff received this special treatment because at that time she was working with some foreign delegations including European Union delegations.
After completing her testimony, the Judicial Authority submitted a legal reference to the accused carrying additional evidence that meant an increase in the charges brought against him, which included sexual violence based on testimonies and a request previously submitted to the court by the victims’ lawyers. The new addition included a charge of ten cases of murder mentioned in the Red Crescent Hospital doctor’s testimony that he had previously given before the court on 23/06/2021.