PRESS RELEASE: SJAC and ICWC present lessons learned (so far) from the world’s first trial against two former Syrian Intelligence employees

PRESS RELEASE: SJAC and ICWC present lessons learned (so far) from the world’s first trial against two former Syrian Intelligence employees

A Look into the Courtroom in Koblenz, February 2021 © AFP/Thomas Lohnes

“Courts seized of these types of allegations should carefully consider how to engage in public outreach to populations most affected by the alleged crimes, including through interpretation services and providing open access to court proceedings” said The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) and The International Research and Documentation Centre for War Crimes Trials (ICWC) in a press release today.

One year after the commencement of the trial against Anwar Raslan and Eyad Al-Gharib, SJAC in conjunction with ICWC has released “Scratching the Surface – One Year into the Koblenz Trial”, a review of the world’s first trial against former employees of the Syrian Intelligence Services accused of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. The report aims to keep the Syrian and international communities informed about the ongoing proceedings in Koblenz, Germany, by providing legal and practical background information on challenges and prospects of the trial. The report serves as an important resource for survivors, journalists, researchers, and other justice actors, and is based on observations from SJAC’s detailed monitoring of the trial.

“While an important milestone, the Koblenz trial has encountered significant challenges which should serve as a learning opportunity to ensure that universal jurisdiction proceedings in Germany obtain justice for Syrians,” offered Roger Lu Phillips, SJAC’s Legal Director. While this trial has been celebrated as a historic landmark trial paving the path to accountability of Syrian government affiliates, it also showed several shortcomings regarding its effective contribution to a transitional justice process for Syrians. Criticism focused on insufficient transparency, witness protection as well as charging decisions. “With this report, we seek to make a realistic assessment of the trial’s contribution to transitional justice for Syrians, as well as to ensure that the proceedings are accessible and understandable for a large audience,” added Prof. Dr. Stefanie Bock, Executive Director of the ICWC.

The report considers the legal frameworks and assesses the proceedings based on insights from monitoring the trial since the beginning. It also provides concrete recommendations, not only relating to this particular trial, but to other universal jurisdiction trials likely to follow in Germany and elsewhere. Trials like this can only serve as important steps to justice and accountability for Syrians if the proceedings and background are communicated openly to the affected community and global public.

Read the full report here. For questions or press inquiries, please email [email protected]

For more information or to provide feedback, please contact SJAC at [email protected] and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to SJAC’s newsletter for updates on our work.

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