If found guilty, Raslan could face a life sentence. He would become the senior-most government official to be punished for systematic atrocities, extrajudicial killings and sexual assault by members of Assad’s regime.
Raslan, who broke away from the Syrian regime in 2012 and fled the country, denies all charges against him.
The historic decision comes as the Assad regime – accused of killing hundreds of thousands of civilians with conventional and chemical weapons – is repairing diplomatic ties with former regional enemies such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The United States and the European Union have criticized their Arab allies for bringing Assad to a regional level, but said they could do little to prevent reconciliation.
According to lawyers representing the plaintiffs, the court in the German city of Koblenz gave about 100 testimonies. In Branch 251 several survivors of torture took a stand and came face to face with their alleged harasser. He offered detailed descriptions of the severely overcrowded cells, along with physical and psychological abuse, where they were deprived of food, water and medical treatment.
An unnamed female witness is described as being examined naked, as well as being beaten up in the detention center. She detailed her encounter with Raslan, led her with her clothes torn from the attack, said he ordered her blindfold removed, and offered her coffee. The next day, she was transferred to another district and released, according to a summary of her conversations with Ruslan, by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.
Co-plaintiff Wasim Muqdad, a Syrian musician living in Berlin, said he suffered injuries on the soles of his feet and on his heels and knees during interrogation. “They knew how to inflict maximum pain,” he told the court.
In their closing statements, the plaintiffs made emotional speeches, praising the court and rebuking Ruslan for denying his allegations. More than 100,000 people are believed to have been kidnapped, detained or missing in Syria, the United Nations has said, and a co-plaintiff criticized the judicial process for excluding enforced disappearances from the charges.
Co-plaintiff, Hussein Ghrer, recalled that his captive at the detention center had said he would “disappear behind the sun.” He told the court that he was like Schrödinger’s cat to his loved ones, appearing both alive and dead at the same time. He added that he was “removed from life without actually dying.”
“no matter how long” [Raslan] He will be imprisoned, he will have a watch, he will watch the sun and know when it rises and when it sets,” Ghrer told the court. “He will have medical care when needed, and he will visit relatives who are He’ll know how he’s doing, just as he’ll know how they’re doing.”
Raslan’s trial is seen as the culmination of nearly a decade of evidence gathered by activists and lawyers seeking to hold the Assad regime accountable for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In the early years of Syria’s insurgency-war, which began in 2011, volunteers known as “document hunters” smuggled hundreds of thousands of documents from abandoned regime facilities. Many said he faced an onslaught of bullets and rockets to smuggle papers that would serve as evidence in investigations against the regime.
Lawyers and activists have vowed to continue prosecuting former and present regime officials implicated in crimes. In Germany, Ruslan and Gharib were arrested under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which gives the state jurisdiction over crimes against international law, even if these are not within that state.
The Syrian regime cannot be tried in the International Criminal Court because it is not a party to it. Syria can be investigated by the ICC if the UN Security Council refers it to, but Russia and China have blocked previous attempts by the UNSC to do so.
In July 2021, a German prosecutor convicted the Syrian regime’s doctor, Ala Moussa, who is accused of burning the genitals of at least one prisoner. His trial begins in Frankfurt this month.
“We all agree that this can only be the first step,” Patrick Crocker, an attorney at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights representing the joint plaintiffs, said at Monday’s news conference. “There are still international arrest warrants pending against high-ranking individuals and we hope and we believe and will be pursued.”
“There will be no safe haven in the world for these people.”