Higher Regional Court – Frankfurt, Germany
Trial Monitoring Summary #37
Hearing Dates: March 14, 2023
CAUTION: Some testimony includes descriptions of torture.
Note that this summary is not a verbatim transcript of the trial; it is merely an unofficial summary of the proceedings.
Throughout this summary, [information located in brackets are notes from our trial monitor] and “information placed in quotes are statements made by the witness, judges or counsel.” The names and identifying information of witnesses have been redacted.
SJAC’s 37th trial monitoring report details day 61 of the trial of Alaa M. in Frankfurt, Germany. A new witness, who is a former colleague of the accused and worked together in Homs Military Hospital, appeared in court to testify. The witness began his testimony by disclosing some personal information and describing his relationship with the Accused when they worked at the Homs Military Hospital. The judges then asked him about the events of the Arab Spring and its repercussions on work in the hospital. The witness divided the hospital staff into three groups: those who tortured patient detainees; those who consented to torture yet did not participate in it; and those who rejected it.
The witness told the court how the hospital administration denied that torture had taken place on its premises. He then cited examples when the accused declared his loyalty to the Syrian Government. After that, the Judges asked the witness about incidents when the Accused beat and mistreated a patient and performed a surgical operation without anesthesia on another patient. At the end of the session, the Judges announced that they would continue questioning the witness in the next session.
Day 61 – March 14, 2023
On this day, a new witness was summoned to appear in court, a former colleague of M. who was a doctor at the Homs Military Hospital. After outlining his personal life, P15 elaborated on the distinction between civilian and military hospitals. Subsequently, the Judges asked him to describe his relationship with M. which P15 explained to be good. P15 described M. as a spoiled, ostentatious person who likes to show that he is from a well-off family. This was evident from M.'s behavior and actions, as he was “promoting” himself in the hospital by bragging that he was a close person to the deputy chief physician in the hospital.
The Judges asked if the events of the Arab Spring had an impact on the workflow in the hospital. P15 confirmed this, explaining that the uprising in the city of Homs led to a state of alert in the hospital, after which the number of injured and the types of their injuries increased. The Judges were interested to know whether there was a difference between the civilian and military doctors’ clothing/uniforms before and after 2011. P15 described what civilian and military doctors wore and how that changed over time. The Judges wanted to know the impact of the events on the treatment of the patients in the hospital. P15 explained that the patient demonstrators were classified by the [pro-government] side as those who should be killed, while army patients were treated like heroes. According to P15, the practice of abusing patients and wounded detainees varied from beating to depriving them of medical services (such as anesthesia in surgeries) and last but not least, torture, which became a form of showing loyalty to the Syrian regime.
P15 explained that members of all classes of the hospital’s staff were involved in torture: doctors, nurses, and cleaners. He noted that 70% of them participated in torture. P15 said the cadres claimed they were entitled to make reprisal on detainees, which led to brutal incidents that sometimes forced the hospital to put guards on the injured. P15 classified working individuals into three categories: one carrying out torture; another one that endorsed it but did not participate in it; and a third one that did not accept it whose members were viewed with suspicion and were under surveillance and pressure. When the Judges asked whether the hospital administration reacted to torture or if it was done with their consent and instruction, P15 explained that there was no reaction from the hospital. Instead, the head of the hospital at the time held a meeting with the doctors in which he claimed that the country was exposed to a major conspiracy. According to P15’s analysis, the administration was aware of those practices. P15 supported his opinion by an example of an instance in which doctors from the anti-torture group delivered a message to the dean of the urology department stating that torture must stop. The dean denied that torture took place in the hospital and demanded that he never hear about it again. The Judges then asked about a specific incident committed by M. P15 explained what the Judges were referring to was when M. rushed once to his car in the hospital parking lot and played the song "We love you [Bashar], You’re great" which was a "trend" among the pro-government people. M. turned up the audio volume too loud, showing his loyalty and presumptuousness, according to P15.
In the ensuing questioning, the Judges moved on to another topic regarding an operation that M. allegedly performed without anesthesia on the patient and informed his colleagues of his act. The Judges went on to ask about the details of the incident: which surgery it was, who performed it, who was present, how the patient was anesthetized, how P15 knew about it, and who else was informed of it. The Judges asked about the impression M. had left when telling his colleagues about what he did. P15 replied that M. told them that bragging about what he had done. Following that, the Judges asked P15 to tell them about another incident that he mentioned in a previous interrogation, stressing that P15 distinguishes between what he witnessed himself and what he heard from others. P15 did not recall all the details of the incident, but he recounted that M. either slapped or kicked one of the detainees before he insulted him.
The court adjourned until the next session when P15 was to continue his testimony.