Will EU Courts Put Syrian War Criminals on Trial?

Published March 1st, 2019 - 02:00 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)

He was incarcerated in the notorious Sednaya prison for over a year from 2012 to 2013. However, he suffered most in captivity in a detention centre in Homs.

Ahmad, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, was detained for a month under the command of General Jamil Hassan; the chief of Syria’s air force intelligence directorate.

“They gave me electric shocks three times a day,” he recounted. “I was transferred to Sednaya after they forced a confession out of me.”

After being tortured in the detention centre, Ahmad was forcibly disappeared in the most infamous prison where activists claim thousands have been extrajudicially killed.

He was among the very few lucky ones as he was released in a prisoner swap between the regime and the rebels and fled to Lebanon. Now he lives in a camp in the Beqaa valley and dreads ever going back home.

However, six years later there is a glimmer of hope that one day Hassan might be held accountable for allegedly torturing him, among hundreds of others.

In June, Germany’s federal prosecutor issued an arrest warrant against the general based on the complaints of nine Syrian refugees. Last week, Berlin reportedly sought Hassan’s extradition from Lebanon. German newspaper Der Speigel reported that the general was in Lebanon to seek medical treatment.

Ahmad said while he was uncertain if Hassan would be sent to Germany, but he would be “very happy” if that happened.

He said: “I hope he is caught and brought to a court in any country in the world to be prosecuted. If and when that actually happens, I and many others brutalised on his orders, will finally get justice.”

Anwar al Bunni, a Syrian activist, is providing support to Syrians alleging torture, forced disappearances and sexual abuse against the general and other high-ranking Syrian officials. He played an instrumental role in the filing of the case in Germany.

He said he was sure that the general was in Lebanon in a hospital and was being protected by Hezbollah, the Iran-backed political and militia group and an ally of Bashar al Assad.

Bunni said while there was no chance of Hassan being extradited to Germany from Lebanon, it does restrict his movement. He said it sends a message to other countries that they cannot harbour Syrians sought by the German state.

“Right now our goal is not to catch him and put him in jail but first to stop them from committing more crimes, and from stopping other countries from giving legitimacy to the Assad government,” he said.

This article has been adapted from its original source. 

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