Two Syrians arrested in Germany for suspected crimes against humanity

Suspects believed to be secret service officers in Damascus and left Syria in 2012

The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. The two suspects were arrested by federal police in Berlin and Rhineland-Palatinate state. Photograph: Getty

The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. The two suspects were arrested by federal police in Berlin and Rhineland-Palatinate state. Photograph: Getty

 

Two suspected former secret service officers from the Syrian regime have been arrested in Germany on allegations of carrying out or aiding torture and crimes against humanity.

The men, identified only as Anwar R (56) and Eyad A (42), were arrested in Berlin and in Zweibrücken, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, on Tuesday. Both men are believed to have left Syria in 2012 and to have sought asylum in Germany.

The arrests follow years of investigation assisted by the Berlin-based European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

As part of an operation co-ordinated with police in France, another Syrian who is alleged to have worked for the secret service was arrested by Parisian prosecutors on Tuesday. His name was not revealed.

It is the first time that western criminal prosecutors have arrested alleged torturers from the Bashar al-Assad regime.

In a statement, the federal prosecution service in Karlsruhe said: “From April 2011 at the latest, the Syrian regime began to suppress all anti-government activities of the opposition nationwide with brutal force. The Syrian secret services played a vital role in this. The goal was to use the intelligence services to stop the protest movement as early as possible.”

Anwar R is suspected of heading a secret service department that operated a prison near the Syrian capital, Damascus. He is accused of participation in the torture and abuse of prisoners between April 2011 and September 2012.

The prosecutors said: “As head of the investigative division, Anwar R directed and commanded prison operations, including the use of systematic and brutal torture.”

Eyad A is thought to be a former officer who aided and abetted in the murders and physical abuse of about 2,000 people between July 2011 and January 2012.

Checkpoint

During 2011 he is alleged to have been responsible for guarding a checkpoint close to Damascus where typically about 100 people a day were arrested before being imprisoned and tortured in Anwar R’s jail.

The arrest warrants for the pair were issued several months ago. Arrest warrants have also been issued against at least 24 other alleged members of the Assad regime, including Jamil Hassan, the head of Syria’s notorious Air Force Intelligence Directorate.

Hassan is wanted in Germany for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity and is believed to have tortured and murdered tens of thousands of civilians. The ECCHR is assisting torture survivors to file cases against their alleged torturers.

Evidence against Hassan was gathered in interviews with other Syrians, some of whom live in Germany.

Anwar R apparently has not made a secret of his role in torture, expressing the view that his flight from Syria and his application for asylum in Germany is evidence enough that he has distanced himself from his past.

Substantial evidence against the men was gathered as a result of the exhibition of so-called Caesar photographs in the UN headquarters in New York in March 2015, which depicted the corpses of thousands of torture victims alongside personal testimonies. The photographs were taken by a former member of the Syrian military police calling himself Caesar, who fled Syria in 2013 taking the pictures with him.

German authorities have approached the cases under the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows for the prosecution of crimes in one country even if they happened elsewhere.

It was on this same basis that the US judiciary ruled last week that the Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin was deliberately targeted and murdered by the Assad regime. – Guardian