MESOP MIDEAST WATCH : Former Syrian Colonel Convicted in Landmark Trial

A German court sentenced former Syrian intelligence officer (WaPo) Anwar Raslan to life in prison for crimes against humanity, making him the highest-ranking former official from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to be found guilty of such crimes. Raslan was accused of overseeing the torture of at least four thousand prisoners in Damascus in 2011 and 2012.

Germany’s justice system tried Raslan under universal jurisdiction, which is the principle that the gravest crimes can be tried anywhere. He fled to Germany in 2012 and was recognized by one of his victims, who reported him to police. Human rights advocates hailed the trial (AFP) as evidence that war crimes will not go unpunished, but also warned that atrocities in Syria continue (NYT).

“For Germany, [the trial is] also historically the continuation of what we learned from the Nazi period and what we learned about the importance of the Nuremberg trials and the Auschwitz trials for the way we dealt with our past and ultimately for who we are today,” the Philipps University of Marburg’s Stefanie Bock tells the New York Times.

“Over the course of more than 100 days of proceedings since April 2020, the allegations against the defendants have been explored, but the case has also served as an indictment of the entire repressive and murderous system established under Assad’s rule,” Der Spiegel’s Christoph Reuter and freelance journalist Hannah El-Hitami write.