BERLIN (AA) – The landmark first-ever trial worldwide of Assad regime crimes against humanity started in Koblenz, Germany on Thursday.
Two former intelligence officers of the Syrian regime, arrested in Germany last year, are accused by the Federal Public Prosecutor of being responsible for the torture of hundreds of people in the Al-Khatib detention facility in Damascus.
“The Al-Khatib trial starting today in Germany is of considerable importance worldwide,” said Wolfgang Kaleck, secretary general of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).
“The systematic investigation of the Assad government’s crimes is a start. It is a beginning,” he stressed.
Patrick Kroker, a lawyer representing survivors of torture, said the court today began hearing evidence, listening to the testimonies of nearly 20 Syrians who were detained in regime prisons.
"It’s a small step, and only a first step. But it is a historic step for justice for Syria,” he stressed. Wassim Mukdad, one of the survivors testifying before the court, told reporters that the trial is being closely followed by millions of Syrians.
"This trial is not only important for myself. It's important for thousands of victims – those who are still in detention and those who didn't survive. We want justice for all. It's justice for humanity," he said.
Following the first court hearing on Thursday, the trial will continue in the coming days with the written submissions of the two defendants.
Anwar R., 57, was a senior official of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate until September 2012, and he is accused of murder in 58 cases, and torturing at least 4,000 people at the Al-Khatib detention facility.
His colleague, Eyad A., 43, worked in a subdivision of Syrian intelligence between July 2011 and January 2012. He is charged with aiding and abetting crimes against humanity.