Crime & Justice

Syrians file complaint in Germany over sex abuse in Assad's jails



Syrian campaigner Wafa Mustafa (C) holds a picture of her father as she sits beside co-plaintiff, Syrian Oscar-nominated filmmaker Feras Fayyad (L), and Syrian human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, in front of pictures of victims of the Syrian regime, during a protest outside the trial against two Syrian alleged former intelligence officers accused of crimes against humanity, on June 4th in Koblenz, western Germany. [Thomas Lohnes/AFP]

Seven Syrians who suffered or witnessed rape and sexual abuse in detention centres under President Bashar al-Assad's regime have submitted a criminal complaint to prosecutors in Germany, an NGO supporting them said Thursday (June 18th).

The four women and three men were held in various detention centres in Damascus, Aleppo and Hama between April 2011 and August 2013, said the Berlin-based European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

They were all victims or witnesses of torture and sexual violence, including rape, "electrical shocks to the genitals... and forced abortion", the ECCHR said.

The German federal prosecutor's office in the south-western city of Karlsruhe was not immediately available for comment.

The plaintiffs named nine senior Syrian government and air force intelligence officials in their complaint, including Jamil Hassan, a former close associate of al-Assad and head of the air force intelligence services until 2019.

Hassan is already the subject of an international arrest warrant from Germany and France on suspicion of crimes against humanity.

State-sponsored torture

Sexual and gender-based violence in Syrian detention facilities "were and continue to be part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population" since the Syrian war started in 2011, according to the ECCHR.

"I want the international community and judicial authorities to know what we went through just because we are women," one of the victims was cited as saying in a press release.

In April, the first court case worldwide over state-sponsored torture by the al-Assad regime opened in Germany.

The two defendants in the case are being tried on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that at least 100,000 people have died from torture or as a result of the terrible conditions in regime prisons.

Half a million people have gone through regime jails since 2011, it says.

Several thousand people have died over the same period in prisons run by extremists or other opposition groups, according to the Observatory.

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