On January 13, a court docket within the small German city of Koblenz sentenced Anwar Raslan, a former Syrian intelligence officer, to life in jail for crimes towards humanity. The decision is not going to convey justice to all Syrians, however it’s nonetheless a momentous achievement.
For hundreds of survivors like me, who have been unjustly detained, interrogated and brutally tortured on the al-Khatib state safety department in Damascus, which he headed between 2011 and 2012, it was a day we thought we’d by no means see. In the course of the time he was in cost, greater than 4,000 individuals have been tortured there, at the least 58 are believed to have died in consequence.
I used to be detained twice – as soon as in 2011 after which in 2012 after a raid on the Syrian Middle for Media and Freedom of Expression the place I labored, advocating free speech. The primary time, I used to be taken to al-Khatib state safety department – extensively referred to as Department 251 – for interrogation, the place I used to be detained in secret, crushed and tortured. The second time, I used to be taken to an air pressure intelligence department.
Again in Syria, we may solely dream that we’d at some point see one of many regime’s criminals in court docket on trial for his or her crimes.
Whereas Anwar Raslan is simply one of many a whole lot of members of Bashar al-Assad’s safety and intelligence equipment who’re accountable for state-sponsored torture and numerous different atrocities over the previous 10 and a half years, his particular person conviction carries a a lot wider that means. It’s a damning authorized indictment of the Syrian regime as a complete.
Beneath worldwide regulation, the very definition of crimes towards humanity is that they represent a widespread and systematic assault towards the civilian inhabitants. This particular person conviction offers concrete proof of the horrors perpetrated by the regime on a mass scale.
For any states considering re-establishing ties with al-Assad or forcing refugees to return to Syria, it is a crucial reminder of what the Syrian regime is able to.
But part of me stays heartbroken. It’s laborious to welcome the information when there are tens of hundreds of individuals much less lucky than me who stay forcibly disappeared, detained in al-Assad’s infamous prisons. For them, justice is nowhere in sight.
Nothing can really describe the horror of being disappeared in Syria. Syrian intelligence officers name it “disappearing behind the solar”. The phrase means to dwell in darkness; to be banished from life. It’s a dwelling loss of life.
After a number of days of being confined in a small darkish place, you now not know whether or not it’s night time or day. Gentle and darkness turn into meaningless. It’s virtually as should you now not exist in any respect. You overlook the small particulars of life – what bushes appear like or what flowers scent like.
After my launch in 2015, I fled Syria largely due to the phobia I skilled by the hands of safety and intelligence officers, together with Raslan. I left Syria as a result of I feared I’d be seized once more and didn’t need my household to be haunted by the countless uncertainty over my destiny, ceaselessly questioning: is he useless or alive? Are they torturing him this very second? Is his physique hanging from a noose someplace?
I might need been in a position to forgive Raslan’s crimes towards me had he proven an oz. of regret. But, as a substitute, in court docket, I felt he gave off an air of conceitedness and there was a glance of disdain in his eyes. He denied that there was systematic torture in al-Khatib department, regardless of overwhelming proof on the contrary.
True justice for Syria can solely be achieved when al-Assad, members of his safety forces and all warlords and members of armed teams in Syria accountable for struggle crimes are held accountable.
Once I determined to testify on this trial, I used to be undecided what position it will play within the quest for justice. However I do know if one other alternative arose to inform a court docket of justice about what occurred to me, I’d bounce at it. We will solely hope that such trials will encourage additional prosecutions of Syrian struggle criminals and produce us one step nearer to a special future for Syria.
I’ve had the possibility to see my torturer face trial – an opportunity that so many different Syrians have been cruelly denied. I can solely hope this verdict paves the best way for wider justice for all Syrians.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.