Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
Luna Watfa’s report on Mr. Manuel Rieger, one of the civil plaintiff’s prosecutors in the Anwar Raslan trial,details his determination to explain the legal basis in Germany for holding the “accused” accountable according to universal jurisdiction.
Mr Rieger began reading his last pleading on behalf of his Syrian clients, who are civil plaintiffs in the final days of the “accused” Anwar Raslan’s hearing .
Mr. Rieger first emphasized the legal basis on which the “accused” would be held accountable for the crimes he was accused of committing, and if this were true, then they would be crimes against humanity according to their legal classification.
The legal basis for holding the “accused” accountable includes the elements of a crime that the legislator considers crucial to its classification as a crime. If the conditions are met, these crimes are so serious that they can be classified as crimes against humanity.
If one wants to approach the term “humanity” from a non-legal point of view, the linguistic definition expresses the capacity for empathy and indifference. Tolerance and respect for others are components of humanity, yet according to all the fates of the affected parties in this trial, that description sounds like it comes from a different world.
Mr. Rieger then added:
“Humanity died in Syria when peaceful protesters were shot in the dark inexhaustible secret basements of intelligence especially in the cellars of Branch 251 in the Al-Khatib area in Damascus.”
The lawyer affirmed the responsibility of the accused as one of those responsible and for that he would be tried according to the principle of universal jurisdiction.
He then thanked all the witnesses and prosecutors who risked their lives for freedom, human rights and democracy, saying:
“When I heard the testimony of the witnesses affected I asked myself, how could one fight for a just cause and never give up? Where did the courage of Anwar al-Bunni and others come from despite their imprisonment as well as the violence, torture and threats to their families?”
The answer is the same for me and my clients with the end of this trial nearing:
“Justice can be served in different ways but humanity can finally emerge even stronger and in this trial at the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz it will be partly restored….”
Mr. Rieger stressed the signal the court sends to all followers of terrorist regimes in the world:
“Germany will hold criminals against humanity to account. Germany is a constitutional state and anyone who comes here with a brutal past should expect to be held accountable for their actions.”
Mr. Rieger then addressed the bitter reality of Syria and the inability to hold the Assad family, for example, or the Makhlouf family to account, except that they have become internationally accepted again. He stressed the fact that Raslan cannot be blamed for the crimes afore mentioned. And in the same line of thought, the measures taken against Raslan will not change positions for the Assad or Makhlouf families. Currently, this is a great disappointment for many Syrians as can be imagined.
For one of Mr Rieger’s clients, this trial also accomplished a very important task. The “accused” Raslan is jointly responsible for his client’s humiliation just as he is jointly responsible for his lasting psychological effects and that same person is now in the dock for that. He is in prison and he is likely to stay there for a very long time.
This trial restored to his client the dignity that the accused and his assistants tried to deprive him of. It also partially restored his belief in justice, as the lawyer explained.
He added that his client’s story was different from everything already heard here. He did not consider himself an activist and had no idea why he was arrested or why his name was among those wanted by the Syrian intelligence. This fact, above all, is an indication of the brutality of the Syrian regime and the arbitrary detention against the civilian population in Syria. Moreover, the inhumane arbitrary actions of the “accused” by virtue of his position in the al-Khatib branch could be added to this brutality.
The lawyer referred to his client’s appalling experience in al-Khatib branch and the profound psychological impact it left on him, which according to his client’s description was much worse than the physical torture he was subjected to.
“This psychological torture is still haunting me and my family. Hardly a day goes by without my thinking of the prisoners there. The horrific images I have seen in this prison are always running through my head. I’m not the same person any more. »
The lawyer added his client would never be able to forget the time he spent in the torture cellars of Al-Khatib prison. His life would always bear the mark of Branch 251 and the torture he was subjected with the “wheel.” Besides, he had not been able to tell those present in the court how the body of his three-year-old son was scattered afar by a barrel bomb attack by the Syrian regime.
Despite all the painful details heard in the witnesses’ testimonies during this trial the lawyer confirmed they had not yet come close to the thousands of stories of human suffering the accused helped perpetrate in Al-Khatib branch.
The lawyer stressed the need for the judges to take this into consideration when making the verdict. In his opinion, the “accused” had studied law and therefore was familiar with the constitution and the legal situation in Syria, as well as the prevention of torture.
Lawyer Mr. Rieger concluded his final pleading by saying:
“It would have been absolutely clear to the defendant that the atrocities he had been involved in for decades, especially after 2011, were the reasons why he could hear screams from the torture chambers every day and could see prisoners and their injuries during interrogations.”
“Anwar Raslan was not the “good guy” in Al-Khatib branch’. And he wasn’t the one he claimed to be with no power and he certainly wasn’t the little soldier who was forced to cooperate.”
“Anwar Raslan had been an agent for a very long time in the intelligence branches and had helped carry out the crimes of a criminal regime which reached the height of its brutality after the Syrian revolution in 2011 and persists to this day. It is possible that Raslan changed from within but only when the brutality of the regime turned against his village.”
“His defection from the regime was not out of humanity but out of pure selfishness. For this reason, I agree to the Public Prosecution’s request to sentence the “accused” to life imprisonment with special emphasis on the seriousness of the crime and with all costs of the trial and prosecution included.”