Trial Monitoring

In April 2020,  the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz began the first trial of two former Syrian government officials for acts of torture. This is the first criminal trial worldwide on state torture in Syria. The precedent is an important one, as Syrian government officials have largely escaped prosecution to this point.

Since the beginning of the trial proceedings on April 23, 2020, SJAC has monitored the trial via a local, trained court monitor and published regular trial reports, available in both English and Arabic. The lack of official court translations distorts the historical landscape of the conflict, limits the scope of testimony available, and hinders future opportunities for reflection on human rights violations and justice processes. Consequently, SJAC’s comprehensive trial monitoring establishes a historical record of the trial and ensures the availability of documentation for victims and families. 

On February 24, 2021, the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz found Eyad Al-Gharib guilty of aiding and abetting torture and forced imprisonment as crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 4.5 years imprisonment. The trial monitoring report detailing the verdict is available here. SJAC’s reflections on the verdict — including the role of limited evidence and his status as a low-level warrant officer — are available here.

SJAC has compiled the following list of witnesses in the trial to assist in understanding the ongoing legal proceedings and assisting those interested in following the trial.

THE TRIAL OF ANWAR RASLAN and EYAD AL GHARIB 

LIST OF ALL WITNESSES 

(in order of appearance)

 

 

 

Name Trial Report(s) Trial Day(s) Date Role Summary
Manuel Deußing 1, 3, 11, 16, 26 2, 7, 28, 40, 59 April 24, 2020;      May 27, 2020;      September 2, 2020;        October 29, 2020;        February 3, 2021 expert, witness Criminal Chief Inspector at the German Federal Criminal Police (BKA) who has been responsible for conducting structural investigations into crimes arising from the Syrian conflict since 2011. He testified several times on specifics about investigations, arrests, searches, and exhibits in the cases against Anwar Raslan and Eyad Al-Gharib. He also provided a detailed analysis of the Caesar Files.
Laura Thurman 1 3 April 28, 2020 expert Testified on Syrian history, and background of the uprising in 2011. Her expertise was questioned several times, particularly by the defense.
Christine Bohlmann 1 4 April 29, 2020 witness Officer at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). He testified on Raslan’s asylum seeking process in Germany.
Rita Drechsler 1 4 April 29, 2020 witness Officer at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She testified on the background of Raslan’s asylum process in Germany.
Tamara Huss 1 4 April 29, 2020 witness Officer at the German Foreigners’ Registration Office. She testified on administrative aspects of Raslan’s residence permit in Germany, such as his language certificates and how much monetary social support he received.
Marco Pütz 2 5 May 18, 2020 witness Case worker at the BAMF. He testified on Al-Gharib’s interview when he applied for asylum in Germany.
Klaus Wöllner 2 5 May 18, 2020 witness Officer with decision-making power at the BAMF. He testified on Al-Gharib’s interview when applying for asylum in Germany.
Ahmad Abdullah 2 5 May 18, 2020 witness Translator working at the BAMF. He testified on Al-Gharib’s interview with the office.
Kerstin Zensius 2 5 May 18, 2020 witness Social worker in Zweibrücken. She spoke about violent incidents in which Al-Gharib was involved in Germany.
Corinna Müller-Durmann 2 6 May 19, 2020 witness Police Officer from Berlin. She testified on Raslan’s concerns about being under surveillance by the Syrian Intelligence Services.
Petra Becker 2 6 May 19, 2020 witness Founder of an NGO for Syrian refugees. She testified on her meeting with Raslan during which he expressed concerns about being under surveillance of the Syrian Intelligence Services.
Alexander Frey 3, 5, 11, 25 7, 14, 29, 57 May 27, 2020;       June 25, 2020;   September 3, 2020;            January 14, 2021 witness Criminal Inspector at the BKA. He testified on exhibits, investigations, and arrests in Al-Gharib’s case.
Björn Schmidt 3 8 May 28, 2020 witness Criminal Officer at the State Criminal Police Office (LKA) Berlin. He testified on his hearing with Raslan regarding alleged surveillance by the Syrian Intelligence Services.
Anja Krüger 3 8 May 28, 2020 witness Police Officer from Berlin. She testified on her hearing with Raslan during which he mentioned several incidents when he felt monitored by the Syrian Intelligence Services in Germany.
Martin Holtzky 3 9 May 29, 2020 witness Police Officer at the BKA who interviewed Raslan as a witness on Syrian Intelligence Services.
Firas Al-Fayyad (P1) 4 10 and 11 June 3+4, 2020 plaintiff Former detainee in Branch 251. He testified on his experience regarding torture, mistreatment, interrogations, as well as conditions at Branch 251.
Anwar Al-Bunni (P2) 4 11 and 12 June 4+5, 2020 expert, witness Syrian lawyer and former detainee. He testified on his own detention in Adra prison, his clients’ experiences at Branch 251, including experiences of female detainees at Branch 251 who had to endure sexual assaults.
P3 5 13 and 14 June 24+25, 2020 witness Former employee of the Syrian Intelligence Services. He testified on his work in Branches 295, 255. At Branch 255 he saw lists to document corpses of dead detainees.
Christian Knappmann 5, 23, 31 14, 54, 64 June 25, 2020;       January 7, 2020;   March 24, 2021 expert, witness Criminal Inspector at the BKA who interviewed several witnesses and conducted investigations into mass graves.
P4 6 15 July 1, 2020 witness Former detainee in Branch 251. He testified on his experience regarding torture and conditions at Branch 251.
P5 6 16 and 17 July 2+3, 2020 witness Former guard in Branch 251. He testified on his work as well as structures and hierarchies at Branch 251.
Mr. Brücken 6 16 July 2, 2020 witness Criminal Officer at the French National Criminal Police. He testified on the questioning of P5.
Kathrin Mittendorf 6 16 July 2, 2020 witness Officer with decision-making power at the BAMF. He spoke about P5’s asylum seeking process in Germany.
P6 6 18 July 6, 2020 witness Cousin to Eyad Al-Gharib. He spoke about his relation to Al-Gharib and how Al-Gharib was supportive of demonstrations and warned friends when they were about to be detained.
P7 7 19 July 29, 2020 witness Former detainee. He testified on detention conditions in Branch 251 and Kafar Souseh Branch, and how he was mistreated there.
P8 7 20 July 30, 2020 witness Former detainee in Branch 251 and Kafar Souseh Branch. He testified on detention conditions and how he was mistreated there.
P9 7 21 July 31, 2020 witness Former employee of the Syrian Government. He testified on his detention and release. He said Raslan might be the one who interrogated him during detention.
P10 8 22 and 23 August 12+13, 2020 witness Former employee of the Syrian Intelligence Services with over 20 years of work experience. He testified on structure and hierarchies and torture methods of the Intelligence Services.
P11 9 24 August 19, 2020 plaintiff Former detainee. He testified on how he was mistreated and interrogated at Branch 251 and Kafar Souseh Branch, as well as the detention conditions there.
P12 9 25 August 20, 2020 witness Former detainees in Branches 251 and 285. He testified on the conditions in these Branches, including instances of torture.
Riad Seif (P13) 10 26 and 27 August 26+27, 2020 witness Prominent Syrian opposition figure. He testified on his personal background, role in the opposition, as well as his relation to Raslan from whom he had hoped to get information about the regime.
Henning Lindemann 11 28 September 2, 2020 expert Criminal Inspector at the BKA. He testified on his analysis of a HRW report titled “Torture Archipelago” that was conducted prior to Raslan’s arrest.
Hans-Jürgen Schneider 11 29 September 3, 2020 witness Chief Inspector at the BKA. He testified on Al-Gharib’s stay at a clinic in Zweibrücken where the investigative judge ordered to uphold the arrest warrant against Al-Gharib.
P14 12 30 and 31 September 9+10, 2020 witness Work at a burial site, existence of mass graves where corpses from several Intelligence prisons were buried
Mazen Darwish 13 32 September 15, 2020 expert, witness The head of SCM provided background on the history of Syria and events leading to the uprising in 2011. He provided additional documents on Branch 251 to the court and spoke about the legal system in Syria.
P15 13 33 September 16, 2020 witness He testified on two phone calls he had with Raslan whom he also met him twice. He further spoke about the search for his cousin who was detained at Branch 251.
P16 14 34 October 1, 2020 witness Former detainee at Branch 251 and Division 40. She testified on experiences of sexual violence at Branch 251 and Division 40, as well as the overall conditions at these detention facilities.
P17 15 35 October 6, 2020 plaintiff He testified on his detentions with the Intelligence Services, as well as the search for his brother who was arrested at Branch 251.
P18 15 36 October 7, 2020 witness He testified on the search for his cousin who was arrested at Branch 251.
Christoph Reuter 15 37 October 8, 2020 expert, witness Renowned German journalist specialized in Syria and the MENA region. He testified on the situation in Syria in 2011/12 which he experienced himself. He also spoke about two interviews he conducted with Raslan, as well as his personal impressions of Raslan.
Garance Le Caisne 16 38 October 27, 2020 expert, witness French journalist. She provided background on the Caesar Files and testified on her interviews with Caesar.
Professor Dr. Markus Rothschild 17 41 November 3, 2020 expert Forensic expert who conducted a throughout analysis of the Caesar Files which he presented and explained in court.
Mr. Hörl 17, 25 42, 57 November 4, 2020;            January 27, 2021 witness Criminal Inspector at the BKA. He testified on an exhibit his office found in Raslan’s flat in Berlin.
Christopher Engels 18 43 and 44 November 17+18, 2020 expert Director of Investigations and Operations at the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA). He testified on the structure of the Syrian Intelligence Services, provided documents from Syria to the court and explained how CIJA obtained them.
P19 18 45 November 19, 2020 plaintiff Former detainee in several Intelligence Branches. She testified on her detentions in Branches 251 and 285 where she was beaten and had to endure sexual harassment. She further described the bad detention conditions at both Branches and how she heard men being tortured.
P20 19 46 and 47 November 25+26, 2020 witness Former detainee in Branch 251. He testified on his arrest by Division 40, detention at Branch 251 and transfer to Branch 285. He also spoke about underage detainees at Branch 251 and being mistreated by an interrogator whom he identified as accused Raslan.
P21 20 48 and 49 December 1+2, 2020 witness Former employee of the General Intelligence Directorate with over 30 years of work experience. He testified on arrest warrants and orders to “extend interrogations” that his office (Branch 255) received from several Branches.
Hannah Hille 20 49 December 2, 2020 witness Case worker at the BAMF who testified on her interview with P21 and how information about war crimes is being forwarded at her office.
P22 21 50 December 9, 2020 plaintiff Former detainee at Branch 251 and Kafar Souseh Branch. He testified on being tortured with Falaqa and collective punishment in both Branches. He concluded that Branch 251 was not as bad as Kafar Souseh Branch.
P23 21 51 December 10, 2020 witness Former detainee at the 10th Division and Branch 251. He testified on mistreatment he had to endure during his detentions, as well as his transfer Harasta hospital where he and others were tortured. He said many people died from torture in the hospital on a daily basis.
P24 22 52 December 16, 2020 witness Female detainee at Division 40 and Branch 251. She testified on detention conditions and other detainees being tortured. According to her own statement, she did not suffer sexual violence.
P25 23 53 January 6, 2021 plaintiff Former detainee in Branch 251 and State Security Branch. He testified on torture and interrogations of minors and elderly people at both Branches, himself being tortured, and collective punishment. He concluded that Branch 251 was worse.
P26 24 55 January 13, 2021 witness Two times detainee at Branch 251. She testified on constant torture, overcrowded cells, bad food and inadequate hygienic facilities.
P27 25 58 January 28, 2021 plaintiff Former detainee at Branch 251. He testified on torture during interrogations and harsh beating at his arrival. He further heard other detainees, including women, being tortured.
P28 29 61 March 10, 2021 plaintiff Former detainee in Branch 251. He testified on the generally bad conditions in Branch 251 and mentioned new torturing methods such as dripping hot melted plastic on one’s head. He is suffering from psychological and physical trauma due to his detention in Branch 251.
P29 29 62 March 11, 2021 witness Former detainee at Branch 251. He testified on being tortured and sexually harassed on the way to Branch 251.
P30 30 63 March 17, 2021 plaintiff Former detainee in Branch 251. He testified on the bad conditions in Branch 251, torture using electric shocks and the German Chair. He also said he saw appliances on the walls, where one could be hanged.
P31 32 67,68 April 7 + 8, 2021 Witness Former detainee in Branch 251. He identified Raslan as a higher-ranking employee at the Branch and testified about constant torture during interrogations, overcrowded cells, and inadequate hygienic conditions at the Branch.
P32 33 69,70 April 14 + 15, 2021 Plantiff Former detainee in Branch 251. She spoke about her and her sister’s detention in Branch 251 and identified Raslan as a high-ranking employee at the Branch.
P33 34 71 April 21, 2021 Witness Former detainee in Branch 251. She testified on her detention and the detention of family members at the same Branch. She identified Raslan as higher-ranking officer at Branch 251.
Fayez Sarah 35 72 May 5, 2021 Expert Former detainee in Branch 251. He spoke about his detentions at the Branch in 1978, 2008 and 2011.
Kai Strell 36 74 May 20, 2021 Witness Scientific Analyst at the BKA. He testified about a report on detention conditions in Branch 251. The report is based on more than fifty witness testimonies.