To counter injustice with legal interventions – this is the aim and daily work of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.
ECCHR is an independent, non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to enforcing civil and human rights worldwide. It was founded in 2007 by Wolfgang Kaleck and other international human rights lawyers to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other human rights declarations and national constitutions, through legal means.
Together with those affected and partners worldwide, ECCHR uses legal means to end impunity for those responsible for torture, war crimes, sexual and gender-based violence, corporate exploitation and fortressed borders.
Koblenz / Berlin – In the al-Khatib trial, the Koblenz Higher Regional Court today sentenced the defendant Eyad A to four years and six months in prison for aiding and abetting 30 cases of crimes against humanity. This is the first time a former member of the Syrian intelligence services has been convicted of a crime under international law. The trial of the main defendant, Anwar R, will continue until at least October 2021.
“Eyad A is just one small cog in the vast Syrian torture apparatus,” said Wassim Mukdad, Syrian survivor and joint plaintiff in Anwar R’s trial. “This verdict is important. I hope it can shed light on all of the Assad regime’s crimes. Only then will the trial really be a first step on this long road to justice for myself and other survivors.”
Over 60 trial days, Syrian survivors and experts have testified in Koblenz, Germany, about the defendants’ acts and highlighted the systematic crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad’s government and the Syrian intelligence services.
“Today’s verdict is the first time a court has confirmed that the acts of the Syrian government and its collaborators are crimes against humanity,” said Patrick Kroker who represents joint plaintiffs in Anwar R’s case. “Testimony by torture survivors and intelligence officers, as well as the Caesar photos prove the scale and systemic nature of enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence in Syria. The relevance of this evidence extends far beyond the proceedings in Koblenz.”
The al-Khatib trial is the first worldwide to address these crimes in Syria. Since proceedings cannot be initiated either in Syria or at the international level, the trial in Germany is based on the principle of universal jurisdiction. Testimony and evidence about crimes committed by the Syrian government can be used in other proceedings, whether at the national or international level.
“Hopefully, this verdict will motivate other European prosecutors to initiate similar proceedings,” added Wolfgang Kaleck, ECCHR general secretary. “The goal must continue to be to bring high-ranking officials of Assad’s security apparatus to justice. They are responsible for abusing, torturing and executing of tens of thousands of people in Syria – not just over the past several years; even today.”
The trial of Anwar R and Eyad A in Koblenz began in April 2020. Eyad A’s trial was separated on 17 February 2021. ECCHR supports 29 survivors in the proceedings against Anwar R, 14 of whom are joint plaintiffs. The organization’s work on the al-Khatib trial is part of a series of criminal complaints on torture in Syria that ECCHR and approximately 100 Syrians filed in Germany, Austria, Sweden and Norway beginning in 2016.
The first trial worldwide on state torture in Syria started in Germany, in April 2020. The main defendant is Anwar R, a former official at the General Intelligence Directorate in Syrian President Assad’s government. ECCHR supports 17 Syrian torture survivors in the proceedings.
On 23 April 2020, the first criminal trial worldwide on state torture in Syria started in Germany. The main defendant in front of the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz is Anwar R, a former General Intelligence Directorate official in Bashar al-Assad’s government. ECCHR supports 17 Syrian women and men in the al-Khatib proceedings, seven of whom are joint plaintiffs. Here you will find regular updates on the proceedings.
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