A Syrian Ray of Hope in a German Court?

Germany’s invocation of universal jurisdiction sends a clear message to the Assad regime, argues Elias Harfoush.

Germany and its court dared to do what others had not. By giving precedence to the principle of universal jurisdiction, it has allowed for the prosecution of those guilty of committing these crimes outside Germany’s borders as well. The German court’s ruling is founded on the premise that Syrian citizens’ lives have value and that those who committed crimes against them must pay the price. Although Eyad al-Gharib’s sentence is not consistent with the gravity of his crimes, it opens the door to subsequent trials in which Gharib will be a witness. The most prominent of these trials is that of his “mentor” Anwar Raslan, who is awaiting a sentence that may reach life imprisonment for torturing 4,000 prisoners, 58 of whom died under torture.

There has never been a scarcity of evidence for the crimes of Bashar al-Assad’s regime against the Syrian people. In today’s discussion, let us limit our scope to the Syrian regime’s victims and overlook the crimes it has committed against the Palestinians, whether in Lebanon or Syria — the Yarmouk camp is a prime example — or against the Lebanese during its “tutelage” of this miserable country, although the fate of dozens of Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons remains obscure to this day. 

The regime is basing its calculations on many considerations. It has played its cards astutely during the Syrian crisis, especially since 2015 when it became a mere bargaining chip on the Russian-Iranian negotiating table with the West. It has also astutely exploited the dubious rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) and the fact that it transformed Raqqa into one of its “capitals,” using it to give itself the guise of a force in the war against terrorism — thinking that it would be easy for it to promote itself as such. Assad’s Russian friends also used this pretext to defend him at all the international forums they have taken part in.


This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.


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