Donnerstag, 31. Dezember 2020

Interview with Wolfgang Kaleck of ECCHR

 A quite interesting interview with lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck of the  European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin:

Wolfgang Kaleck, a 60-year-old human rights lawyer with large blue eyes and a wave of sandy brown hair, smiles a lot for someone who has spent his life litigating some of the world’s worst atrocities. “The stories you hear you won’t forget,” he says, sitting at a long table in his office in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. “But at the same time you learn about these cruel facts of the world, you learn about the light side, which is that there’s resistance basically everywhere.” He should know: For the better part of three decades, he has pursued cases across borders on behalf of victims who have been disappeared by the military dictatorship in Argentina and spied upon by the East German Stasi. He has filed criminal complaints against former U.S. officials, including President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet, and current Director Gina Haspel. And now he’s taking on one of the biggest bad guys of them all: Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Donnerstag, 17. Dezember 2020

Did austrian authorities shield a syrian intelligence officer?

 An author on the "Amnesty International UK" page claims, undergirded by numerous links to other publications, that austrian intelligence covered a syrian torturer and high-ranking intelligence operative:

"As a Syrian human rights defender, you get used to disappointment - but what I read one cold morning last November was on another level of dismay. I came across a remarkable investigation by the Austrian newspaper Kurier which said the Austrian government, aided by Israel’s Mossad, had hid a Syrian Lieutenant General wanted for investigation by the French authorities for crimes against humanity and war crimes. 

Under “Operation White Milk'', a joint Austrian-Israeli operation, Khaled Halabi was hidden in Austria and given a new identity and name (Alexander). Halabi was the head of the Syrian General Intelligence Branch 335. The General Intelligence Directorate is one of the four main pillars of the Syrian Regime's repression architecture that has tortured, disappeared, and killed more than a million Syrians since March 2011, including women and children. It is the same directorate that Colonel Anwar Raslan works for. Raslan is currently on trial in Koblenz, Germany, charged with the torture of 4000 people as well as murder and sexual abuse. However, Halabi was a higher rank than Raslan and would have had extensive knowledge of and involvement in the Assad regimes torture network.

The trial in Koblenz has given many of us Syrians some level of hope and optimism - but it now seems that the Austrian authorities are actively trying to counter those international efforts and undermining the global fight against impunity and mass atrocities with its strange and troubling protection of Khaled Halabi."

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Dienstag, 1. Dezember 2020

Germany: prosecutors hunt perpatrators of Ghouta gas attack

 "German prosecutors are currently collecting witness testimonies, documents and videos incriminating Syria in what are believed to be war crimes. The evidence against the Assad regime compiled by groups that have filed a criminal complaint in Germany is overwhelming", writes germany newpaper SPON:

"Salim Namour’s colleagues at the underground hospital in East Ghouta saw him as a rock of stability. The veteran doctor even called himself that: Sakhr, the rock. But on Aug. 21, 2013, Namour, too, reached his limits. "It was like Judgment Day," the doctor recalls.

Overnight, Volcano and M14 rockets rained down on rebel-held suburbs near Damascus, striking residential buildings. Impacts were also reported near mosques and at a primary school.

Namour recalls hearing over the radio that all doctors should head to the hospital immediately. Upon arrival, he saw the injured everywhere, many with no signs of any external wounds. People were struggling to breathe and were having seizures. Saliva oozed from their mouths. "The dying, the dead, it was horrible,” says Namour. Everything seemed to point to a poison gas attack.

Inside the cave, as the doctors called their underground hospital, they tore the clothes off the injured and rinsed them in water. They gave them shots of atropine as an antidote and administered oxygen. Namour and his colleagues fought to save lives until the next day at noon. But in many cases, they lost the battle.2

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Dienstag, 10. November 2020

German aid worker files a charge against the syrian regime for torture

 German aid worker Martin Lautwein accuses syrian intelligence forces of torture. The plaintiff is an aid worker who was based in Syria and Iraq. He claims to have been kidnapped along with an australian collegue from a basar in Damascus and held captive for 48 days in custody in 2018 where he claimes to have experienced torture, writes German newspaper WELT:

For the first time, a German citizen is taking legal action against Syrian officials for torture. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), which supported him, announced on Tuesday that Martin Lautwein had filed a complaint with the Attorney General after his imprisonment in a Syrian prison. Lautwein was imprisoned in a military prison in Damascus for seven weeks in 2018. Initially, the Südwestrundfunk, the Westdeutsche Rundfunk and the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" reported on the case.

Lautwein worked in Iraq and Syria for an aid organization that set up medical infrastructure. According to the report, he was arrested along with an Australian colleague at a bazaar in Syria. He was tortured in prison, he told the media. During interrogation he was accused of working for a foreign secret service, which he denies. He also saw other inmates being mistreated and killed. "It's about breaking people by all means," he said.

The two colleagues were released after 48 days. According to the report, the Czech Republic negotiated the release - the country was the only EU country still to have an embassy in Syria. With the help of ECCHR, Lautwein joined a complaint from 13 Syrians that was originally filed in March 2017. It is directed against high-ranking officials in Syrian military intelligence.

"Lautwein's statement is important for dealing with the crimes in Syria," said Patrick Kroker, head of the Syria team at ECCHR. "So far, witnesses have mainly been able to report acts up to 2015, but his case proves that the same conditions prevailed in 2018 - it is probably still the case today." In Koblenz, the world's first trial against Syrians responsible for state torture has been running since April.

Donnerstag, 29. Oktober 2020

White Helmets: the backgrounds of the founder's suicide

 Interesting Long Read in the Guardian about James Le Mesurier, former officer in the British army and founder of Mayday Rescue and the syrian White Helmets and how he was driven to suicide by russian and syrian disinformation:

"Just before sunrise in Istanbul on 11 November 2019, a determined thumping on her iron front door stirred Emma Winberg from a brief sleep. Blurry-eyed, she grasped at the empty space in bed next to her, pulled on a pair of trousers, fumbled with a bedside lamp, then ran across the bedsit to the kitchen next door. “James wasn’t there,” she said. “And that’s when I just knew.”

Winberg had slept briefly after an anxious night. As she drifted off, at about 4.30am, she had seen her husband staring at her from near the bedroom window of their third-floor flat. Now, startled awake, she dashed towards the same spot, her dread rising with every step. “I looked down and thought: ‘Thank God, nothing there.’ And then I looked left.”

Lying naked in the gloom below was James Le Mesurier, 48, a co-founder of the White Helmets, an organisation dedicated to rescuing civilians caught in the Syrian war. Worshippers who had been on their way to morning prayers at the nearby Kılıç Ali Paşa mosque now gathered silently around the body of a foreigner lying on a cobblestone lane. Plastic wrappings and bandages left by medics littered the scene. Not far away, freighters laden with cargo carved white wakes through the grey waters of the Bosphorus. Seagulls watched from a wall as the crowd of onlookers and police continued to swell. The autumn sun crept above the horizon."

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Mittwoch, 21. Oktober 2020

Two NGO's raise the veil on the Syrian chemical warfare program

 Several national and international investigation authorities have received a thoroughly compiled and rigorously researched bulletin on the chemical weapon armory the Syrian regime tried to conceal. The Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) and the Syrian Archive expose in this 90-page bulletin how the Syrian regime betrayed the OPCW and other actors on the destruction of its chemical weapon stockpile it had committed itself. 

French newspaper Le Monde gives a summary of the key findings:

"The veil that has long obscured the Syrian regime's chemical weapons program, allowing it to escape its commitments to the international community in this area, is beginning to tear. On Monday, October 19, two NGOs at the forefront of the fight against impunity in the Syrian conflict, Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) and Syrian Archive, submitted to several national and international investigative bodies a report of depth and of unprecedented precision on the operation of this program, which has caused the death of hundreds of civilians since 2011.

This 90-page document, of which Le Monde, the Washington Post, the Financial Times and the Süddeutsche Zeitung have obtained an exclusive copy, reveals how the authorities in Damascus played off the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) , the body believed to have dismantled the Syrian chemical arsenal.

The report is based on analysis of open sources, on the use of data extracted from a United Nations register and above all on the testimonies of some fifty Syrian officials who have defected in recent years. Most were employed by the Center for Scientific Studies and Research (CERS), the state agency responsible for the development of Syrian conventional and unconventional weapons, which gives their words particularly valuable value.

Freitag, 25. September 2020

Anwar Raslan trial: the mysterious circumstances of Raslans asylum in Germany

 During the trial in Koblenz suspicions arise why Raslan was granted asylum despite the fact that his function as an intelligence operative for the syrian regime was known to german authorities. Did german intelligence services expect informations on the syrian regime, asks Northern Germany Broadcasting NDR?:

"Despite warnings, the federal government brought a suspected Syrian chief torturer to Germany and granted him asylum without a hearing.
The Foreign Office was warned. Nevertheless, the Syrian Anwar R. got a visa for Germany in 2014 and, according to Panorama, received refugee protection and political asylum. The problem: Anwar R. was not a conventional war refugee. He previously served the Syrian regime as a senior intelligence officer. Anwar R. was the head of interrogation in the Intelligence Service Department 251, which is notorious for its torture practices and which also includes the Al-Khatib prison in Damascus.

Montag, 14. September 2020

German politicians confused about chairmanship of Assad crony in german-arabic chamber of commerce

 Several politicians in Germany have voiced their astonishment after the discovery that Assad Crony Mohamad Hamsho holds the chairmanship in german-arabic chamber of commerce "Ghorfa". Hamsho is close to Maher Al Assad, brother of syrian president Bashar Al Assad.

Human rights experts blame him to have arranged expropriations of inhabitants of neighborhoods hostile to the government in Damascus in order to retreive metals of destroyed homes and reconstruct the neighborhood after displacement of the population, writes german newspaper WELT:

"What does a man who is not allowed to enter Germany do in the presidium of a business association based in Berlin? A man whom the EU accuses of “benefiting from and providing support to the Syrian regime”. A regime guilty of "continued brutal repression and violation of human rights"?
These are the reasons for the sanctions, which also affect the Syrian Mohamad Hamsho. He is the owner of the Hamsho International Group and a member of the Presidium of the German-Arab Chamber of Commerce in Ghorfa, which resides on Berlin's Garrison Church Square, with an impressive view of the Pergamon Museum.

Sonntag, 30. August 2020

How France is tracking war criminals

 An interesting article about the french special unit OCLCH (Office central de lutte contre les crimes contre l'humanité, les génocides, les crimes de guerre) destined to identify and track war criminals. It has the particularity that it consists of members of Gendarmerie and Police.

The unit was created in 2013 and since then the men and women of this office tracked war criminals from Ex-Yugoslavia to Rwanda.

Recently, in may 2020, the officers of the OCLCH identified and arrested Félicien Kabuga bankroller of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda 1992.

The same fate is approaching to syrian war criminals.

"Saturday May 16, 2020, Asnières (Hauts-de-Seine). The first light of day appears when investigators discreetly get out of their cars. Head to a neat five-story building. On the back of their uniform, five words: "Office central war crimes." It is here, in this small street in the Parisian suburbs, that lives one of the main culprits of the genocide in Rwanda, perpetrated in 1994. That year, 800,000 people, according to the UN, were killed in a few weeks after the decision of the Hutu extremists in power to exterminate the Tutsi ethnic group.
Félicien Kabuga is suspected of having financed a bloodthirsty militia and of having called for the massacre of Tutsis through the Mille Collines radio station, of which he was one of the leaders. This Rwandan is targeted by an arrest warrant from the International Mechanism, the UN structure responsible for completing the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Pursued by international justice for ... twenty-six years.

Montag, 17. August 2020

Raslan Trial: testimony of former intelligence operative at "Al-Khatib"-branch

 An anonymous witness who claims to have worked at "Al-Khatib"-branch has incrimanted the defendant, detailing torture methods and the chain of command that Raslan was heading, taz

"The witness will appear “partially masked”, says the presiding judge Anne Kerber. Because of "the risk situation" he does not have to give his personal details. The identity of the witness, who testified on Wednesday and Thursday in room 128 of the Koblenz Higher Regional Court, is kept secret, in the files he is named Z 28/07/16. It is the first such testimony of its kind in the trial in which two Syrians have been on trial for crimes against humanity since the end of April.

Raslan trial: testimony of lawyer Anwar Bunni

 On june 5 2020 it was the turn of Berlin based lawyer and longstanding opposition figure Anwar Bunni to testify on his experiences with the defendant Anwar Raslan and how he recognised him in a Berlin refugee accomodation in 2015, taz:

"At noon, before his testimony in the Koblenz Higher Regional Court begins, Anwar al-Bunni stands in front of the courthouse with tears in his eyes. "It is good that there is this process, but that is not enough," says the human rights attorney, pointing to the framed photo portraits behind him.

Raslan Trial: testimony of film director Feras Fayyad

 On june 6 film director Feras Fayyad, notable for his documentary "Last Men in Aleppo", has testified in court against defendant Anwar Raslan. Taz!5686468/:

"Firas Fayyad thinks he can remember the birthmark on the face of the man who questioned him. It was noticeable, he says. And he had to think of his mother, who told him as a little boy about her own moles: Everyone stands for a wish that has not come true. Fayyad is sitting on the witness bench in room 128 in the Koblenz Higher Regional Court - and what he says has little to do with unfulfilled wishes. And a lot with what you definitely don't want to experience: beatings, torture, rape.

Montag, 22. Juni 2020

Syrian torture-doctor arrested in Germany

A syrian individual who worked as a doctor in a prison in Homs was arrested for suspected torture on prisoners, writes german newspaper "Bild":

"This doctor is said to have tortured an inmate at least twice: the federal prosecutor's office accuses Alaa M. of crimes against humanity (Section 7 (1) No. 5 of the VStGB, Section 25 (2) of the Criminal Code) and dangerous bodily harm. On June 19, 2020, the BKA arrested the torture doctor in Hesse.
On June 20, 2020, the Syrian was brought before the investigative judge of the Federal Court of Justice, and the man has been in custody since then.
Alaa M. worked as a doctor in the Military Intelligence prison in Homs, Syria, in 2011. From October 23, 2011, the later torture victim A. was arrested for participating in a demo. Following a "torture session", he suffered an epileptic attack. When Alaa M. was called in, he is said not to have helped the victim, but to have beaten him up with a plastic tube.
The next day, Alaa M. is said to have knocked the tortured victim out again, this time accompanied by a colleague - the victim later died. The accused entered Germany in mid-2015 and worked here as a doctor."

In an updated version of the article, the accusations against Alaa M. are more precise: 

"But the summoned doctor Alaa M. did not care for A., according to the GBA - but hit him with a plastic tube and kicked him after A. went down. The victim's condition worsened the next day, A was unable to walk. Fellow inmates asked for medical help again, but Alaa M. and another prison doctor hit A until he passed out, was finally put in a blanket and carried away by guards, and then died. After his brother was released and paid a high bribe to the regime henchmen, he was handed over the body. This showed further traces of torture, including holes that had been drilled in his skull. 
Several witnesses on the Qatari television channel “al-Jazeera” reported that they recognized the torture doctor Alaa M. in Germany. Alaa M. is said to have poured alcohol over the penis of another prisoner and then set it on fire, saying that the prisoner had suffered severe burns.

In 2015 Alaa M. left Syria and traveled to Germany - where he worked as a doctor again. He is said to have practiced as an orthopedist in Bad Wildungen for years. Now Alaa M. has to answer for crimes against humanity and dangerous bodily harm." 


Freitag, 19. Juni 2020

Rifaat Al Assad convicted to 4 years in prison by french court


"Rifaat al-Assad has been under investigation in France since 2014, when the legal NGO Sherpa, which defends victims of alleged economic crimes, filed a complaint saying the value of his property empire far exceeded his known income.

Five years later, the French judicial authorities decided that he should stand trial for crimes allegedly committed between 1984 and 2016, including organised money laundering, aggravated tax fraud and misappropriation of Syrian state funds.

The trial opened on 9 December last year. Assad denied the charges, saying he was given gifts by the Saudi royal family.

His reported French fortune includes two Paris townhouses, a stud farm, a chateau and 7,300 square metres of office space in Lyon. Several luxury properties have already been seized by French authorities.

Assad and his family also have a portfolio of 507 properties in Spain valued at around €695m (£585m).

The properties were seized by the Spanish authorities in 2017 as part of a separate investigation into alleged money-laundering activities by Assad and 13 other people, who have again denied any wrongdoing."

Montag, 1. Juni 2020

SPIEGEL: The internals of the Assad-Makhlouf-feud

DER SPIEGEL's Christoph Reuters gives interesting insides of the until recently top secret dirty laundry of the two powerful families:

"Rami Makhlouf's Facebook videos are dangerous. No mere mortal would ever survive such a thing in Assad's empire. Ultimately, though, these direct challenges to the president's authority could prove to be a life-saving maneuver. Those who fall out of favor with the regime, after all, tend to be removed via "suicide," in the form of several bullets in the back of the head. But after these videos, it is unlikely that anyone would believe that Makhlouf took his own life, should he turn up dead.
Makhlouf, in any case, is still living in Syria, allegedly having moved from his estate in Jaafur, near Damascus, to his hometown of Latakia. But his videos also haven't yet triggered an uprising by loyal Alawites or among the thousands of people on Makhlouf's payroll. At least not yet. The authorities have recently been ratcheting up the pressure. Not only did the Finance Ministry order the seizure of assets belonging to Rami and to his wife and children, but he has also been slapped with a travel ban."

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:


Freitag, 1. Mai 2020

The noose is tightening around the neck of Assad's cronies

Syrian Observe reports about a campaign aiming at identifying war profiteers in Assad's Syria:

"According to details published on the organization’s website, the campaign aims to, “achieve the principle of accountability and prevent impunity for war criminals and those who fund them.” The group added that it had “picked up and uncovered the threads of those networks.” 
On the goals of the campaign, the organization said that it was “exposing how the Assad regime manages its financial affairs through a group of traders close to the republican palace.” 
According to sources from the organization, the campaign has shed light on around 70 individuals tied to the Assad regime, forming a group of war profiteers who have doubled their income on the suffering of millions of Syrians. 
These targeted individuals were chosen by revealing the pattern of financiers that the head of the regime relies on, which it uses to strengthen its control by enabling them to have authority over all facets of the Syrian economy over the past nine years." 

Donnerstag, 30. April 2020

RSF: abductor of lawyer Razan Zaitouneh arrested

Reporters sans frontières announced already in February that abductor of four human rights activists has been apprehended in the french city of Marseille:

"The onetime spokesman of the Syrian Jihadist group Jaysh al-Islam, Alloush was arrested in the French city of Marseille on 29 January and was formally placed under investigation two days later on suspicion of “war crimes,” “acts of torture and complicity in torture,” and “complicity in enforced disappearances.”

Awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2011, Zaitouneh was abducted by Jaysh al-Islam in Douma (in Eastern Ghouta) on 9 December 2013 along with her husband, Wael Hamada, and two colleagues, Samira Al-Khalil and Nazem Al-Hammadi. They have been missing ever since."

Raslan trial: two syrian journalists among plaintiffs

Reporters sans frontières write:

"The plaintiffs against him include two journalists: Amer Matar and Hussein GhrerArrested twice in 2011 in connection with his freelance journalism, Matar was tortured during interrogation and was accused of “spreading false news” and “undermining the nation’s morale.”

Ghrer was arrested in 2012 while at the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) in Damascus, and was then jailed for nine months, during which he was placed in solitary confinement.

“This trial is a major step toward ending the unbearable impunity for crimes against journalists by the Syrian intelligence services,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “But we must not forget that the two journalists who are plaintiffs in this trial are among the very few who managed to escape. Hundreds of others disappeared completely after being arrested.”

Raslan trial: SNHR contributed to investigation

SNHR announced that it has contributed to the investigation against Anwar Raslan, former intelligence head of Branch 251 detention center.

"SNHR has contributed in a case against Anwar Raslan in the German court of Koblenz as prosecutor was provided with data of individuals died due to torture at the time Anwar was at al Khatib branch in which the toll of victims due to torture reached 58 individuals. 
SNHR also offered the data of 195 forcibly disappeared persons at the same scope of time between March 2011 to the start of September 2012."

Montag, 27. April 2020

Scandal over painting worth 27 M € offered to Asma Al Assad

While his people is dying and starving, syrian president Bashar al Assad offers his wife a painting by pop-art painter David Hockney worth 27 million Euros.
The information was disclosed by russian newspaper Gosnovosti and transferred in middle eastern media.

French newspaper "Libération" writes: 

"When he is not at war, Bashar Al-Assad knows how to be very generous out of love. The Syrian president would come to prove it in a rare moment of grace for almost ten years devoted to bombing his country and his people. Taking advantage of the truce of fighting imposed on him in Idlib following an agreement between his Russian ally and his Turkish enemy in northern Syria, he is said to have offered his wife, Asma al-Assad, a painting by David Hockney for almost 27 million euros. The British painter, master of pop art, has become one of the most expensive in the world in recent years.
Curiously, it was a Russian newspaper, Gosnovosti, which last week revealed the purchase of the artwork by its great ally from Damascus. Several media close to the Kremlin recently launched a virulent campaign against corruption by the Bashar al-Assad regime. We will come back to it. At the moment and according to Russian information which quotes an alleged Syrian Twitter account not found, the acquisition was made at auction of the famous house Sotheby’s in London by an unknown buyer. Indeed, the sale on February 11 of one of Hockney's emblematic canvases, The Splash, a 1.80 meter square painting, painted in 1966, "representing a swimming pool with diving board and splashes, seizing the right moment after the diver entered the water, "had been reported by all the artistic columnists at the time. "Knocked down at 23.1 million pounds sterling (27.4 million euros), it is not a record, but all the same", comments a critic about the confirmed increase in the rating of the artist."

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: 

Freitag, 24. April 2020

Start of the trial agains Anwar Raslan

German newspaper Welt relates the first day of the trial against Anwar Raslan and Eyad Al-Gharib on the Higher District Court of Koblenz:

"If you didn't know which serious crimes Anwar R. was accused of, he would hardly notice you. A thin pair of glasses, dark sweater, gray mustache, shaved head. So inconspicuously, the 57-year-old takes a seat on the dock in Koblenz on Thursday morning.
As if nothing were happening, he looked straight ahead, not hiding his face - neither from the hasty click of the cameras nor from the first glances of the five Syrians sitting a few meters away from him in the middle of the hall. You, the co-plaintiffs, have been waiting for this moment for years: at last the man is on trial, who is supposed to be responsible for her torture, for her agony during hell during Syrian imprisonment.
Until the end of 2012, Anwar R. headed the prison of Department 251 of the General Secret Service in Damascus, according to the prosecutor's charge (GBA). She was notorious for particularly brutal torture by opposition figures protesting against the Syrian government across the country. 
Anwar R. ordered at least 4,000 people to be tortured and 58 prisoners murdered in the multi-storey prison on Baghdad Street. He is on trial for crimes against humanity.
"The killings and tortures were carried out at his responsibility," emphasized the chief prosecutor on Thursday when reading the indictment.
But the importance of the trial of Anwar R. and Eyad A. - the second defendant - goes far beyond these crimes. For the first time in the world, two suspected minions of Bashar al-Assad have to stand trial. Representatives of a state torture system in several Syrian prisons that have been proven to have killed more than 14,000 people. Probably there were significantly more. 
There are two central reasons why some of these crimes are now being prosecuted for the first time, and in Germany. For one thing, the United Nations has so far been unable to agree on any form of international prosecution of the Syrian state torture. On the other hand, since an amendment to the law in 2002, German prosecutors have been able to investigate across national borders, provided that genocide or other international law crimes are being prosecuted.
Also because this process is so important for survivors of the state torture, the Koblenz Higher Regional Court held on to it despite the coronavirus crisis. With some restrictions: Due to the current ban on contacts, only 14 seats were available in the hall for media representatives. More than 70 reporters from all over the world had been accredited. Those who arrived too late were unlucky on Thursday. 
Already at 6.30 a.m. a line formed in front of the court. Survivors from other torture prisons in Syria were among those waiting. For example Khaled Rawas, 30, ex-detainee in the prison of the 215 department. He had traveled from northern Germany for the process for seven hours. He finally hoped for a piece of justice, Rawas said in an interview with WELT, nothing more was possible: "Nothing can do these deeds, nothing can make up for our torments."
Experts from the GBA's International Criminal Law Unit heard more than 60 witnesses, including many victims of torture, for the trial. Some had already been reported in advance about the brutal torture system under the accused Anwar R. - and yet the almost 60 minutes long descriptions by the two senior lawyers were shocking.
Prison 251 was, after all that survivors report in unison, hell on earth. Guards obligatorily greeted new inmates with a "welcome torture". In the days and weeks after that, things usually continued. Every two or three days, sometimes every day, officials dragged inmates into the torture rooms.
There were blows waiting for bare soles, electric shocks, sexual violence or even the threat of ill-treatment of close relatives. The chief prosecutor called the hygienic conditions in the prison "catastrophic". A maximum of one toilet per day was allowed, the cells were so crowded that inmates could only stand.
The victims were people like Ali Ibrahim A., who was electrocuted when he was sent to prison in 2011. Or Hussein G., arrested in October 2011, whose bare soles were beaten with a belt. So strong, so often, that the feet swelled.
Anwar R. is said to have personally ordered another prisoner to torture him until he was "rare": According to the GBA, the prisoner was tied up in a cell with cable ties for three days, standing up. When her victim fell asleep, guards poured water over his head. The cable ties cut off the occupants' hands so massively that they can no longer grip properly.
According to investigators, Anwar R. also accepted the deaths of the prisoners "approvingly" from the torture. It is undisputed that he saw what was happening in his facility. R. had his office in the hallway where torture was, he could not hear the cries of the victims. Eyad A., the second defendant, is considered part of a clearance squad that hunted down activists in the streets and took them to Anwar R.'s torture prison on buses.
Anwar R. and Eyad A. came to Germany as help seekers after their time in torture jail: A. applied for asylum. At his hearing, he is said to have talked about his head and collar by speaking openly about the torture crimes. R. received a visa for Germany through the German embassy in Amman. He also betrayed himself. Since he felt persecuted here, he went to a police station. There, officials were made aware of his alleged crimes in Syria.
The process in Koblenz continues on Friday. It will last for months. Given the extensive evidence, it would come as no surprise if Anwar R. were given a life sentence."

Donnerstag, 23. April 2020

Trial against Anwar Raslan in Koblenz

An article in Foreign Policy sheds the light on the intelligence official's dodgy connections to the syrian opposition:

"In September 2012, a year and a half into the Syrian uprising, the opposition movement decided to help regime officials defect abroad, in hopes of accelerating the fall of President Bashar al-Assad. One such official was Anwar Raslan. He headed the investigations team of Branch 251, a notorious intelligence directorate prison on Baghdad Street in Damascus. It was one of the most feared addresses in the capital, run by a feared man. At capacity, it could detain and torture a hundred people at a time, but as the protests picked up, the number of prisoners reached four times that number, as the building became stuffed with political prisoners who were beaten unconscious, electrocuted, and hung by their wrists under Raslan’s command.And then, in 2013, the opposition received word Raslan wanted to defect. He was an important enough target for the opposition that they dispatched one of their own to pretend to be Raslan’s driver and escort him through Damascus, a city lined with soldiers, to rebel-held eastern Ghouta. Within days, he was smuggled to neighboring Jordan. There, he joined the opposition.

Over the next two years, Raslan ingratiated himself with several opposition leaders and in 2014 even got a ticket to represent the rebellion in Geneva at U.N.-organized peace talks. The about-face paid off when he flew to Germany in the summer that year and sought asylum. He successfully settled with his family in northeast Berlin and started afresh, without anyone mentioning the torture chamber he once oversaw. Branch 251, and the screams of thousands of people brought there, seemed to have faded away." 

Trial against 2 syrian intelligence operatives started in Koblenz

Germany newspaper "Welt" reports:

"For the first time in Germany, criminal proceedings have been launched against two men for alleged involvement in Syrian state torture. The main defendant Anwar R. (57) had his attorney declared before the Koblenz Higher Regional Court on Thursday that he would not give written comments on the allegations until the third day of the trial (April 27). The second defendant Eyad A. (43), however, wants to remain silent, according to his defender.
The federal prosecutor's office speaks of “the world's first criminal proceedings against members of the Assad regime for crimes against humanity” (file number 1 StE 9/19). Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is said to be responsible for a cruel machine of torture in his country of civil war. The Federal Prosecutor's Office bases its 104-page indictment on testimony from two dozen suspected victims of torture.
The two Syrian defendants were recognized by suspected victims after their escape in Germany and were arrested in February 2019 in Berlin and in the Palatinate Zweibrücken. The charges accuse Anwar R. of crimes against humanity in 2011 and 2012. She accuses him of 58 times murder, rape and serious sexual assault in Syria. Eyad A. is accused of aiding and abetting a crime against humanity in 2011.
Anwar R. was said to have been responsible for the brutal torture of at least 4,000 people in a prison run by the General Secret Service in the Syrian capital Damascus. At least 58 prisoners died as a result. Eyad A., arrested in Zweibrücken, is accused of having brought at least 30 demonstrators to the torture prison with inhumane conditions of detention. The indictment speaks of brutal physical and psychological abuse. The victims were beaten, kicked and electrocuted.
Several of the alleged torture victims who testified also participated in the trial as co-plaintiffs. The trial began on Thursday with strict security precautions and was dominated by the highly contagious corona virus: only every third seat in the audience area of ​​the largest courtroom in Koblenz was allowed to be occupied. Numerous process participants wore face masks. For the time being, 24 negotiation days are scheduled until August 13th."

Dienstag, 10. März 2020

Trial against syrian intelligence officials scheduled for april

The trial against two syrian intelligence officials who seeked asylum in Germany and were arrested in February 2019 is scheduled for april in Koblenz.

"The first trial of suspected members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's security services for crimes against humanity, including torturing and killing opposition activists, will start next month, a German court said on Tuesday.
In a move welcomed by campaigners as sending a signal to those affected by oppression in Syria, German prosecutors have used universal jurisdiction laws that allow them to prosecute crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.
The court in the western city of Koblenz said it had given the green light to a trial starting on April 23."

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Sonntag, 23. Februar 2020

Idlib and the West's miscalculations in Syria

A french blogger with probable intelligence background writing under the nom-de-plume "Abou Djaffar" in french newspaper Le Monde assesses the fails and mistakes of the US and European Countries in handling the syrian conflict:

Who is still interested in Syria and its revolution? Nobody, or almost. The war has been going on for almost nine years, and only a few can remember the hope that was lifted when Damascus finally seemed to tremble. This war, now, if not finished, can no longer be won by the insurgents, and the future victors, less worried than ever about the consequences of their acts, shamelessly indulge in the most despicable crimes. Lies, a solid and ancient tradition of Moscow power, are no longer appropriate to defend its ally and client, and violence is unleashed as never against the civilian populations of the Idlib region, until it systematically hits hospitals. In France, where we are quick to ignite for the slightest rubbish, the silence which reigns makes us accomplices, first of all the current horrors then of those which will not fail to occur in reprisals. History is not a restart, but a sequence, sometimes predictable.

Die for Idlib?

In the face of this disaster, which will weigh on and will continue to weigh on the coming decades, we must recognize the Machiavellian skill of the Syrian regime. Like all tyrannies, his essential, if not unique, goal is to survive, and he demonstrates an imagination that has only been matched by the complete lack of moral limits. We knew very quickly what his response to the demonstrations of March 2011 would be, and those who speak to us today about the (real) barbarism of the jihadists to defend Bashar al-Assad forget that the first crimes then committed in Syria were by the Syrian authorities against their own children.

The same also forget that it is the regime which, with a boldness and a cold intelligence which we have not been able to conceive and even less to detect, in 2011 freed the jihadists and other salafists whom it kept warm in order to destroy the revolution from within. Applying on an unprecedented scale the unfortunate formula of an American officer in Vietnam, the Syrian president has chosen to destroy his people and ravage his country in order to save his state. To implement such a policy, one needs a determination that Westerners are unable to oppose these days and that they cannot even compete with.

The Syrian strategy, the ultimate illustration of what is a total war, consisted in favoring the growth of an enemy so hated that the adversaries of the mode had, in fine, to turn to him in order to protect themselves. The growth of the jihadist movement in Syria, inevitable as soon as certain cadres were free and the revolution became a civil war, did not need any extra help to grab our attention. And the emergence, out of all control, in 2012, of the first lines of volunteers destined for the Syrian-Iraqi jihad offered the regime a new opportunity.

In 2013, Damascus therefore made contact via dedicated channels with certain Western services in order to express its concern and propose the establishment of dedicated cooperation. On the one hand, the Syrian SRs said, no doubt rightly, worried about the scale of the phenomenon, hundreds of volunteers joining the ranks of insurgent groups and the army losing ground despite the unlimited support granted by Russia and Iran. On the other hand, these same services offered to transmit information about these recruits - without it being clear what they really knew - and it is obvious that this was, above all, to create an axis of cooperation, even a minimal one, making it possible to affirm when the time comes that it was time to focus together on a common enemy. In the longer term, these channels, however modest, would one day serve to reconnect the threads of dialogue. Strategy is still a profession.

With audacity and skill commensurate with the stakes, the master spies of Damascus, who were also not so sure of their coup (their allies in Moscow and Tehran were even less so), therefore favored their immediate adversary in order to divert their distant enemy from his purpose. The maneuver, opposite to that implemented by al-Qaeda in the 1990s, was not without difficulties but it seems to have succeeded: driven by their public opinions, spurred on by a jihadist threat which they do not know how to deal with. unraveling, and seduced by the immediate profitability of a raid on an ISIS camp, the Westerners quickly abandoned the Syrian revolution, too complex, too random, too indecisive - but is that not characteristic of revolutions , after all ?"

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Donnerstag, 9. Januar 2020

Arrests never stop in the Assad regime-held areas of "reconciliation"

"Yesterday, Monday, the Assad regime's militia carried out a campaign of arrests in areas of southern Damascus, targeting those wanted for the purpose of forced recruitment.

"The patrols from the regime's Palestine Branch barriers been established temporarily the day before yesterday and held surprising tours in the towns of "Al-Thiyabiya," "Al-Husseiniya," and "Al-Husseiniya" camp, south of Damascus, in search of the settlement members who refused to join the ranks of the regime," local sources reported.

The sources added that the militias arrested a number of young men after the security forces inspected them, pointing to the participation of Palestinian militias affiliated with the regime in the campaign.

Patrols belonging to the military intelligence of the Assad regime arrested last week 34 people from the "Al Theyabiyya" who had made "settlements" with the regime earlier, during raids that coincided with the imposition of a security cordon on the town.
The Assad regime's militias have previously arrested hundreds of people who were deceived by the promises of "the settlement." A previous report by the "Syrian Network for Human Rights" showed that there are heavy arrests in the areas of "Al-Masalat", especially in Eastern Ghouta, the northern countryside of Homs, Daraa, and Quneitra.

The national security of the regime recently canceled "regularizing" the situation of hundreds of Syrians, especially in the countryside of Damascus, and circulated their names to military checkpoints and began pursuing them in violation of the agreements concluded under Russian sponsorship."