Milestone in the fight against impunity: German authorities issue historical arrest warrant against high level official of Assad’s government

Arrest warrant against Jamil Hassan is a milestone for all affected by Assad’s torture system

Yesterday, it was announced that Germany’s BGH – federal court of justice has issued an arrest warrant for Jamil Hassan, head of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Service, for torture. Such a legal measure means a milestone towards justice and accountability for all those affected by Assad’s torture system, particularly the 24 Syrian torture survivors and activists whose statements contributed to the arrest warrant. Since March 2017, they have, together with the lawyers Anwar al-Bunni (Syrian Center for Legal Research and Studies), Mazen Darwish (Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression) and ECCHR, filed four criminal complaints in Germany based on the principle of universal jurisdiction against high-ranking officials of Assad’s government.

The criminal complaints name, next to Jamil Hassan, other 26 high-level officials of the Syrian Intelligence Services and the Syrian Military. The allegations include: Torture as crimes against humanity and war crimes. Hassan’s name was first included in a criminal complaint filed in September 2017 by activists of the group supporting the work of „Caesar“, a former employee of the Syrian military police. Additionally, Hassan was determined to be one of the prime suspects in a criminal complaint addressing systematic torture committed in detention facilities of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Service, the intelligence agency exclusively under his control and supervision. Existing documents allowed to conclude that he either ordered or allowed for torture as a war crime and crime against humanity to happen.

The arrest warrant is historical – an important and encouraging sign to those who fight impunity and torture worldwide.

By issuing such an arrest warrant, Germany’s BGH – federal court of justice emphasizes: Torture is absolutely prohibited. Those high-level officials responsible for torture in Syria belong before a court. Germany signalizes its readiness to engage in investigations and prosecutions of grave human rights violations. Judicial authorities in other states ought to follow such a step by the German judiciary. As long as no international tribunal or court is prosecuting torture in Syria, third countries have to use the principle of universal jurisdiction .

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