German justice delivers on Wednesday February 24 a verdict of historic significance against a former Syrian intelligence soldier tried in the very first trial of the abuses attributed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
As the tenth anniversary of the start of the popular uprising in Syria approaches on March 15, 2011, this is the first time in the world that a court has ruled on a case related to Damascus' brutal and bloody repression of protests for the freedom organized within the framework of the “Arab Spring”.
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Eyad al-Gharib, 44, is answerable for complicity in crimes against humanity.
He is accused of having participated in the arrest and incarceration in a secret detention center of the regime,
or Al-Khatib, of at least thirty demonstrators at the end of a rally in Douma, capital of Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, in September or October 2011. He will be the first of the two defendants who appear since April 23 before the High Regional Court of Koblenz (west) to receive his sentence, the judges who chose to split the procedure into two.
The second accused, Anwar Raslan, 58, considered much more central in the vast Syrian security apparatus, is being prosecuted for crimes against humanity for the death of 58 people and the torture of 4,000 detainees in particular.
The trial of this former colonel is expected to last at least until the end of October.
To try them, Germany applies the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows the perpetrators of the most serious crimes to be prosecuted regardless of their nationality and where the crimes were committed.
Appeals to national courts in Germany, Sweden and France are increasing at the initiative of the large Syrian diaspora who have taken refuge in Europe.
They are currently the only possibility to judge the abuses perpetrated in Syria due to the paralysis of international justice.
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In Koblenz, the prosecution requested five and a half years of imprisonment against Eyad al-Gharib, who officiated in the lowest echelons of intelligence before deserting in 2012 and finally fleeing Syria in February 2013. Arrived on April 25, 2018 in Germany after a long odyssey in Turkey and then in Greece, he never concealed his past.
It was even when he recounted his winding journey to the authorities responsible for deciding his asylum application that the German justice system began to take an interest in him, which led to his arrest in February 2019. The prosecution assures that he was a cog in a system where torture was practiced with
"an almost industrial scale"
Remained in the shadow of Anwar Raslan during the ten months of the hearing, Eyad al-Gharib remained silent and hid his face from the cameras.
He nevertheless wrote a letter in which he expressed his grief for the victims.
And it was with his face streaming with tears that he listened to his lawyers demand his acquittal, arguing that at the lowest level, he would have endangered his life and that of his family if he did not. had not carried out orders in a regime that crushed all will to disobey.
The accused was also under the rule of a cousin and close to Bashar al-Assad, Hafez Makhlouf, feared for his brutality.
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A civil party lawyer, Patrick Kroker, nevertheless deplored his silence.
"of his rank can be very important in informing us about the
we are really targeting, but that's something he chose not to do
More than a dozen Syrians marched to the bar to testify to the appalling abuse they endured in Al-Khatib prison.
Some witnesses were interviewed anonymously, with their faces hidden or wearing a wig for fear of reprisals against their relatives still in Syria.
For the first time, photos of the “Caesar file” were also presented in court.
This ex-photographer of the military police exfiltrated at the risk of his life 50,000 photos showing 6,786 Syrian detainees frozen by a brutal death, starving and tortured.
Photos that were analyzed in court by a forensic pathologist, Professor Markus Rotschild, constituting overwhelming material evidence.