Victims and families respond to historic Koblenz verdict
The Koblenz Higher Regional Court in Germany has found co-defendant Eyad A. guilty of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity and has sentenced him to four and a half years in prison. Victims of Assad’s detention centres and families of those detained say the verdict is an important first step towards true justice and accountability.
Wassim Mukdad, a Berlin-based musician who is a plaintiff and witness in the case of Anwar Raslan and a witness in the case of Eyad Al-Gharib said:
“This trial is important because it represents an opening to the Syrian judicial systems that the regime shut down and an alternative to the international judicial process under the United Nations which was vetoed by Russia and China. This trial is a ray of hope that there are other judicial options.
“It is also important because all the testimonies and documents presented in court can be used as evidence in future trials against the regime in Germany or any other country with Universal Jurisdiction.
“Any verdict would have been too little compared to the crimes. But this is just the beginning and the day will come when Bashar al Assad and his cronies, the army and intelligence generals are put on trial.”
Hussien Ghrer, a Syrian blogger and a plaintiff and witness in the Al-Khatib trial said:
“Justice is a difficult journey and the Koblenz trial is the first step in establishing the right to try war criminals in Syria. Justice does not eliminate the pain of victims and survivors. Rather, we hope that committing crimes in Syria will be seen differently and perpetrators won’t enjoy impunity.”
Wafa Mustafa, an activist and journalist based in Berlin, whose father was detained seven years ago said:
“This is a historic moment for every Syrian and for the families of more than 130,000 people detained and disappeared, it’s yet another urgent call for the release of all political prisoners still held in Assad’s jails. The crime of detention continues today in Syria and so many lives can still be saved.
“We should be witnessing Assad on trial at the International Criminal Court but this is the first step towards true accountability and justice.”
Mohammad al Sheikh’s father and uncle were both killed under torture in regime detention. He joined Caesar Families Association to find their bodies and give them a proper burial. He said:
“We welcome any step on the road to justice and we seek this justice. But the responsibility for these crimes cannot be limited to one or two people. These crimes go right to the top of the Assad regime. We hope these trials continue until the day when all criminals are tried and get the sentences they justly deserve.”
Ghufran Khoulani of Caesar Families Association lost three of her brothers in Assad’s prisons, all three killed under torture. She said:
“The trial is a small step towards justice. The atrocities on trial in Koblenz are still happening right now in Syria. All detainees must be released, and justice must be achieved for the forcibly disappeared.”
Notes to editors
- For interviews with victims of detention or families of detainees, contact [email protected]
- This month family and survivor-led groups launched their vision for justice in a joint charter.