Former Syrian Colonel Anwar Raslan at the Koblenz Court where he heard the sentence read

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called this Thursday a “historic leap” for justice to sentence a former Syrian secret services colonel to life in prison for crimes against humanity.

“This was a historic leap towards truth, justice and reparations for the serious human rights violations committed in Syria over more than a decade,” Bachelet said in a statement.

The Court in Koblenz (western Germany) convicted Syrian Anwar Raslan, 58, of killing 27 inmates and torturing thousands of other prisoners between 2011 and 2012 in a secret regime detention center.

The sentence released on Thursday by a German court concluded the world’s first trial related to abuses attributed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

This decision “will have a powerful power of persuasion and will help prevent future atrocities”, considered the UN High Commissioner, adding that it will also “make the authorities understand that wherever you are and whatever your position or function , if you torture yourself or commit human rights violations, sooner or later you will have to answer [à Justiça], in your country or another”.

“Today’s verdict should serve to spur more efforts to hold accountable those who committed the heinous crimes that are the hallmark of this brutal conflict”, which has been destroying Syria for more than 10 years, defended the former President of Chile.

Bachelet welcomed the fact that the trial showed the “abominable, cruel and truly inhumane acts of torture – including abject sexual violence – that countless Syrians had to endure in prison”.

This was the second conviction in the trial, after a former Syrian intelligence officer was convicted in February 2021.

Nearly 11 years after the popular uprising in Syria began, this was the first trial of crimes attributed to the Syrian regime and repeatedly documented by Syrian activists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

In 2016, a UN commission of inquiry accused the al-Assad regime of exterminating detainees.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also welcomed the conviction today, with Executive Director Kenneth Roth calling it a “truly historic” moment.

“The torture and murder in detention of which he was found guilty [Anwar Raslan] is a key element of the Al-Assad Government’s ‘modus operandi’,” Roth said.

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