NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative welcomes the arrests by German police on February 12 of two former Syrian government officials accused of carrying out or aiding crimes against humanity, describing it as a major step forward in the drive for accountability for atrocity crimes in Syria.
The Justice Initiative has been working closely with the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, a nongovernmental organization, to build case dossiers against senior figures involved in atrocity crimes in Syria, including one of the two men arrested, 56-year-old Anwar R., who served as a senior official in Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate.
Anwar R. is the most senior former Syrian government official to be arrested so far in Europe for atrocities committed in Syria.
The German authorities said that Anwar R. is alleged to have been complicit in torture and physical abuse as a high-ranking employee of the intelligence service between the end of April 2011 and the beginning of September 2012.
Evidence obtained by the Commission indicates that Anwar R. headed the investigations section at the General Intelligence Directorate branch responsible for the interrogation of detainees, which operated an underground prison, where high-level political detainees were held.
He also headed investigations at the GID branch responsible for the governorates of Damascus and rural Damascus. Photos of at least 145 detainees who died in the branch's custody appear in the Caesar report, a report that details the systematic killing of more than 11,000 detainees by the Syrian government in one region over a two-and-a-half-year period from March 2011 to August 2013.
The other man arrested, 42-year-old Eyad A., was a lower-ranking official in Anwar R.’s department. He is alleged to have helped kill two people and torture and otherwise ill-treat at least 2,000 people between the beginning of July 2011 and mid-January 2012.
Both men’s surnames have been withheld by German officials under privacy laws.
A third individual, also employed in Anwar R.’s department, was arrested by the Paris public prosecutor’s office on Tuesday as part of a joint investigation. Details of that arrest have not yet been released.
The Commission has been working since 2011 to collect evidence and build cases against the perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria. It has been supported by legal experts from the Justice Initiative.
James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said:
“In the face of Assad’s brutality and the international community’s failure as yet to secure accountability for his regime’s heinous crimes, national prosecutors and judges are acting. This is a major step forward.”