Syria official jailed for life in landmark torture trial

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Ex-Syrian colonel Anwar Raslan, pictured in 2020, has been sentenced to life in jail for crimes against humanity by a German court. AFP

A German court on January 13 sentenced a former Syrian colonel to life in jail for crimes against humanity in a “historic” verdict marking the end of the first global trial over state-sponsored torture in Syria.

Anwar Raslan, 58, was found guilty of overseeing the murder of 27 people at the al-Khatib detention centre in Damascus, also known as “Branch 251”, in 2011 and 2012.

He sought refuge in Germany after deserting the Syrian regime in 2012.

Prosecutors had accused him of overseeing the murder of 58 people and the torture of 4,000 others at the centre, but not all of the deaths could be proven.

Presiding judge Anne Kerber said the Syrian regime had resorted to “violence” and “the heavy use of munitions” to suppress protests that erupted in March 2011.

Victims held in the regime’s detention centres were not only “tortured but also starved and deprived of air” in unsanitary, crowded cells where they could not sit or lie down, she said.

Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch, which provided some of the evidence used in the trial, said the verdict was “really historic”.

At least 60,000 people have been killed under torture or as a result of the terrible conditions in Assad’s detention centres, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.