Higher Regional Court Koblenz: Life imprisonment in the state torture process

Status: 01/13/2022 11:00 a.m.

In the process of state torture in Syria, the defendant Anwar R. has been sentenced to life imprisonment. The OLG Koblenz found the 58-year-old guilty of crimes against humanity and murder, among other things.

According to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, in the world’s first criminal case for state torture in Syria, the accused was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity. That was decided by the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz. In the dock sat a former interrogator of a Syrian secret service prison.

The 58-year-old defendant Anwar R. was found guilty of crimes against humanity, 27 murders, dangerous bodily harm in 25 cases, particularly serious rape, sexual assault, deprivation of liberty, hostage-taking and sexual abuse of prisoners. The verdict is not yet legally binding.

Alleged torture of 4,000 people

The process that began in April 2020 ended on the 108th day of the negotiations. The trial with more than 80 witnesses and with a number of victims of torture as co-plaintiffs had attracted international attention.

According to the opinion of the Koblenz OLG state security senate, Anwar R. had committed crimes against humanity in the years 2011 and 2012 in the initial phase of the Syrian civil war. The 58-year-old is said to have been responsible for the torture of at least 4,000 people in a general secret service prison in the Syrian capital Damascus. At least 30 prisoners died.

The defendant had declared himself innocent

The federal prosecutor had applied for life imprisonment for the Syrian – and the determination of the particular gravity of the guilt, which almost excludes a release from prison after 15 years.

The defense had demanded an acquittal. The defendant had declared himself innocent. He did not torture and did not give a single order to do so. On the contrary, he also arranged for the release of captured “Arab Spring” demonstrators. He secretly sympathized with the Syrian opposition and supported them after fleeing his homeland – including by participating in the second Syria peace conference in Geneva in 2014.

Four and a half years imprisonment for co-defendants

The international law principle in international criminal law makes it possible to prosecute possible war crimes committed by foreigners in other countries. Anwar R. and the former co-defendant Eyad A. were recognized by alleged victims of torture after their escape in Germany and arrested in Berlin and Zweibrücken in 2019.

Eyad A. has already been sentenced by the OLG to four and a half years in prison for aiding and abetting a crime against humanity. A decision has not yet been made on its revision.

According to the conviction of the Koblenz judges in Syria in 2011, Eyad A. helped bring 30 demonstrators to the torture prison of the main defendant.

File number: 1 StE 9/19

Judgment in the Syrian State Torture Trial – Lifelong

Christian Giese-Kessler, SWR, January 13th, 2022 10:44 am

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