Press release / January 13, 2022

PRESS RELEASE: Crimes against humanity conviction must lead to wider justice

For immediate release 13 January 2022

Free to use photos available to download here

Today’s conviction of Anwar Raslan for crimes against humanity for his role in the torture and killing of detainees at the notorious al-Khatib intelligence branch in Damascus is a victory for tens of thousands of torture survivors, victims of enforced disappearance and for the human rights activists and family groups that have fought relentlessly for truth and justice for their detained and missing loved ones in recent years.

Anwar Raslan is the first high-ranking member of the Syrian regime to face justice for his crimes. Now his conviction must pave the way for wider accountability for Syrian war criminals.

Hussein Ghreir, a torture survivor and joint plaintiff who testified during the trial, was arrested twice and spent more than three and half years in total detained by the Syrian regime. He said:

“We waited for so long to witness this moment. This individual conviction has not only seen justice served for survivors of torture like me but it also carries a wider meaning – it provides legal confirmation of the systematic nature of the crimes being committed by the Syrian regime.”

Lamis al-Khatib of the women-led Syrian movement Families for Freedom campaigning for justice for Syria’s disappeared said:

“Anwar Raslan’s conviction is significant because it sends a message to all criminals in Syria that they cannot escape justice – one day they too will be held accountable for their crimes. It also illustrates that we, the families of victims, will never forget and will never give up our struggle. But true justice for Syrians including victims’ families cannot be achieved as long as our loved ones are still forcibly disappeared and imprisoned at the hands of the Syrian regime.”

Mariam Hallak, founder of Caesar Families Association, whose own son died while detained by the Syrian regime said:

“ As families who lost loved ones in Assad’s prisons, we have been wishing for the day when we could see a member of Syria’s security forces being held accountable for their crimes. We hope that this verdict paves the way for further trials of perpetrators of war crimes against the Syrian people. Each violation does not just impact one person – it has a ripple effect that reaches all their family and much of the Syrian population. May this verdict send a clear message to every politician, security officer in Syria who is still detaining, torturing and killing people: You cannot escape justice, one day you will be held accountable for your crimes.”

Ameenah Sawwan, Justice and Accountability Campaigner at The Syria Campaign said:

“It’s important to remember that the abhorrent crimes that were highlighted during this trial continue to be committed today in Syria. Thousands continue to be arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared and tortured on a mass scale simply for peacefully expressing their opinions. Today’s verdict must serve as a wake up call for states that are restoring ties with Bashar al-Assad: this is a regime with blood on its hands, guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes.“

Notes to editors:

For interview requests, with survivors, human rights activists and campaigners around the verdict please contact Ameenah Sawwan, in Koblenz on +49 176 2264401 or email: [email protected]

Audiovisual material available here Photos must be credited to Paul Wagner/ The Syria Campaign. Further photos and video footage may be available later in the day. Please contact [email protected] for more details.