Witness, Defendant, Deserter Case in Germany Raises Questions about How to Try Assad's Atrocities

The crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad's power apparatus are finally getting the legal attention they deserve as a trial for crimes against humanity in Syria comes to a close in Germany. But there's an important hitch: The men being tried actually deserted from the regime.
Images taken by the photographer known by the pseudonym "Caesar" are shown at an event organized by the Syrian opposition in Idlib: They were used as evidence for the first time in a trial in Koblenz.

Images taken by the photographer known by the pseudonym "Caesar" are shown at an event organized by the Syrian opposition in Idlib: They were used as evidence for the first time in a trial in Koblenz.

Foto: Juma Mohammad / ZUMA Wire / picture alliance
DER SPIEGEL 2/2022
SPIEGEL International
Defendant Anwar Raslan in April at the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany

Defendant Anwar Raslan in April at the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany

Foto: Thomas Lohnes / AFP
"I'm still experiencing death row to this day. It's like a tomb, with no light and no window, just a crack under the door, with 130 to 140 people around me."

A Syrian witness now living in Germany

"The screams convinced me that I was going to end up like that, too."

A witness at the Higher Regional Court

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad with soldiers in 2013

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad with soldiers in 2013

Foto: AFP
Public prosecutors at the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz

Public prosecutors at the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz

Foto: Thomas Lohnes / REUTERS
"As soon as the doors of the trucks were opened, the stench started spreading."

Witness Z30/07/19, speaking before the Koblenz court

"We should be more honest about what we can accomplish with these trials."

Mohammad Al Abdallah, human rights lawyer