Syria: German court’s decision a momentous step in the fight against impunity

Today’s conviction in Germany of a former Syrian regime official for crimes against humanity is a considerable stride in the path towards justice in Syria, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said.

هذا البيان متوفر باللغة العربية أيضاً

On 13 January 2022, the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany, sentenced Anwar Raslan, the former head of the Investigation Department of Branch 251, a notorious Syrian State Security facility, to life imprisonment. The former colonel was found guilty of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and sexual violence.

“This judgement is a milestone in the fight against impunity in Syria”, said Vito Todeschini, Legal Adviser at the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“German judges have shown that justice can be rendered for victims of human rights violations in Syria.”

On 24 February 2021, as part of the same criminal trial, the Koblenz High Regional Court convicted Eyad Al-Gharib to a prison term of four and a half years for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, including torture and arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The trial of Anwar Raslan and Eyad Al-Gharib is the first time former Assad regime officials have been prosecuted for crimes against humanity. Both accused were tried thanks to the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows the prosecution of suspected perpetrators of serious crimes under international law, even when such crimes have not been committed in the country where the criminal proceedings take place and when neither victims nor the defendants are nationals of that country.

“Other States should use universal jurisdiction to fill the accountability gap in Syria”, said Todeschini.  

“States must also support other international efforts, including the investigations of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria and the UN Commission of Inquiry.”


Vito Todeschini, Legal Adviser, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, e: vito.todeschini(a)icj(dot)org

Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)icj(dot)org

Asser Khattab, Research and Communications Officer, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, e: asser.khattab(a)icj(dot)org


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