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.