Germany: life for Syrian torturer

The Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany, has sentenced Anwar R. to life in prison for crimes against humanity in the world's first criminal trial on state-led torture in Syria. The former director of operations at a Syrian secret service prison is alleged to have been responsible for the systematic torture of at least 4,000 people. Europe's press welcomes the verdict, but sees a need for further action.

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Le Temps (CH) /

A warning to torturers worldwide

The trial is to be commended in every respect, Le Temps applauds:

“This conviction is to be welcomed, as is the advance of international justice that it reflects. It sends a warning to torturers and their supervisors in Syria and elsewhere that no border can protect those guilty of crimes of such magnitude. Also admirable in every respect is the tireless work of the Syrian victims and the organisations that gathered evidence and funds - but also the courage of the witnesses, some of whom put the fate of loved ones at risk for this.”

La Stampa (IT) /

The Hague blocked by China and Russia

The court in Koblenz is stepping in where The Hague failed to bring progress, La Stampa sums up:

“For war crimes and crimes against humanity, the International Court of Justice in The Hague would actually have been the appropriate venue. But already in 2014, the dissenting votes of China and Russia blocked the UN Security Council's first attempt to have the Hague Court investigate war crimes in Syria. According to the UN Convention against Torture of 1984 and the principles incorporated into international criminal law in 2002, it is possible to prosecute certain serious crimes under national jurisdiction, irrespective of the nationality of the victims and the perpetrators.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

The killing will continue

The verdict is historic but at the same time sobering, Der Tagesspiegel comments:

“Because Bashar al Assad as supreme commander did not have to take a seat in the dock, and no doubt never will. ... This despot who wages war against his own people has nothing to fear. The much touted international community has come to terms with him and his rule. And that gives a bitter aftertaste to the Koblenz trial. The murdering and torture in Syria will continue. The verdict against Anwar R. will not change that.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Other torture chambers are ignored

Tages-Anzeiger says it's no coincidence that other states are being spared:

“The application of German justice is by no means free of political self-interest. You can see this if you look at which countries the investigators go easy on. The torture cellars of the Egyptian dictator al-Sisi, for example, about which human rights organisations also have plenty to say, are not an issue for the German judges. Nor have they ever taken a closer look at torture in American prison camps in the Middle East or in Guantánamo. ... Nevertheless, it is right that the German judiciary has now taken such strong action against Syria.”