What are the implications of the verdict on torture in Syria?
A court in the German city of Koblenz on Wednesday handed down the verdict in the world's first trial on murder and torture by the Syrian state. The defendant, a former Syrian secret service agent, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for delivering anti-regime demonstrators to a detention centre where he knew they would face torture in 2011. He came to Germany as a refugee, where he was recognised by a torture victim.
They can no longer feel safe in Europe
Gazeta Wyborcza says the verdict sends a message to all war criminals:
“In recent years, investigations have been launched against Syrian war criminals in several European countries: Germany, Sweden, France and Spain. These countries apply the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows them to try the most serious crimes without having to prove that the perpetrators or victims have links to the country in question (former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London at Spain's request according to this principle). The regime's henchmen, who have been hiding among the refugees in Europe, can no longer feel safe.”
An end to the impunity is possible
Zeit Online hopes this trial will be the first of many of its kind:
“For years, lawyers in the US have been collecting evidence on Assad's killing apparatus, and torture survivors have filed criminal charges against leading regime officials not only in Germany but also in Austria, Sweden and Norway. Many more trials must follow against all those who committed war crimes, because the survivors are entitled to it. And because the whole world needs to know what happened to these people in their homeland - and is still happening to them today. There must be an end to impunity in Syria. The Koblenz verdict shows that this is possible.”
Justice from below
For De Standaard the ruling is
“also a testament to the dramatic failure of international law and the international community. ... Consequently, all praise goes to the human rights activists who tirelessly collected evidence and initiated the trial from the bottom up to bring the regime to account. ... Assad is perched on the shaky throne of a ruined country. He has six million refugees, half a million dead countrymen and more than 100,000 missing on his conscience. Even if the world prefers to look the other way, thanks to this judgment the chances of him escaping justice are a little smaller.”