Federal Prosecutor's Office v. Anwar R.
Universal Jurisdiction Prosecution for Crimes against Humanity in Syria
The accused, Anwar R., is the most senior former Syrian government official to be arrested and prosecuted in Europe under the principles of universal jurisdiction for atrocity crimes allegedly committed in Syria. German prosecutors have charged him with crimes against humanity over his alleged role in the torture and abuse of over 4,000 detainees allegedly held under his command between the end of April 2011 and the beginning of September 2012. He faces 58 related murder charges due to the deaths of detainees, as well as charges of rape and aggravated sexual assault.
Anwar R. is being tried together with a subordinate, Eyad A., who faces charges of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, and of being responsible for 30 cases of torture. The surnames of both men are withheld by prosecutors under German privacy laws.
Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID), one of the four main domestic security services, played a leading role in efforts by the government of President Bashir al-Assad to suppress widespread protests that broke out in areas of the country in early 2011. The GID’s goal was to stop protests as soon as possible by intimidating the population. They used brutal force that included systematically torturing and in some cases killing suspected protestors and other opponents of the government.
From early 2011 until September 2012, Anwar R. was the head of the Investigations Section in the GID’s Internal Branch, also known as Branch 251, or the al-Khatib branch.
Branch 251 was the Directorate’s branch responsible for the governorates of Damascus and Rural Damascus. The Syrian regime often transferred high-level detainees to Branch 251. The photos of at least 145 detainees who died in Branch 251 custody appear in the Caesar report, a report that details the systematic killing of more than 11,000 detainees by the Syrian government in one region over a two-and-a-half-year period from March 2011 to August 2013.
According to the charges issued by German prosecutors, Anwar R. ordered and commanded the procedures in the prisons, including the systematic use of brutal torture. The systematic brutal physical and psychological abuse was intended to coerce confessions and gain further information on the opposition movement.
From April 2011 to the beginning of September 2012, subordinates of the accused are alleged to have subjected at least 4,000 prisoners to brutal and massive torture. The interrogations featured a variety of torture methods, including blows with fists, sticks, pipes, cables, whips and hoses, and the administration of electric shocks. At least 58 people died as a result of such abuse.
The accused Eyad A. was employed in a subdivision that worked under the Investigation Unit of Anwar R. In late 2011, at a detention centers under Anwar R.’s command, he is accused of allowing the torture and detention of at least 30 people following the suppression of protests in the city of Douma.
Open Society Justice Initiative Involvement
The Open Society Justice Initiative is representing survivors who were allegedly tortured under Anwar R.’s command. German statutes give victims’ lawyers an active role in the courtroom by formally taking the role of a private accessory prosecutor. They have the right to participate in the proceedings alongside the public prosecutor.
The Justice Initiative also provided legal support to the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, one of a number of civil society groups that submitted dossiers of incriminating documents, photos and witness statements to German federal prosecutor’s office prior to Anwar R.’s arrest.
Federal Prosecutors Office issues indictment against both men, before the Higher Regional Court of Koblenz.
Eyad A. arrives in Germany and seeks political asylum, after leaving Syria in February, 2013.
German police arrest both men. A third former GID officer is arrested in France on the same day.
Anwar R. arrives in Germany and seeks political asylum, having left Syria in late 2012.
Major unrest begins in the Syrian cities of Damascus and Aleppo, with protestors demanding that President Bashar al-Assad accept democratic reforms and release political prisoners. As protests spread, the GID begins mass arrests and detentions, systematically torturing prisoners.
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