Germany arrests 2 Syrians for suspected war crimes

Police arrest two Syrian citizens suspected of crimes against humanity for their work as members of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's security forces.

BERLIN - Police have arrested two Syrian citizens in Germany on suspicion of crimes against humanity, including torturing prisoners, during their work for the intelligence service in Syria, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

The two suspects, identified as Anwar R., aged 56, and Eyad A., 42, were arrested by federal police in Berlin and Rhineland-Palatinate state.

A spokeswoman for the GBA Federal Prosecutor's Office said both suspects were part of the Syrian security service centre in Damascus and had left Syria in 2012.

As a high-ranking employee in the Syrian intelligence service, Anwar R. is strongly suspected of participating in crimes against humanity by torturing opposition activists between 2011 and 2012, prosecutors said in a statement.

"As head of the so-called investigative department, Anwar R. assigned and directed the operations in the prison, including the use of systematic and brutal torture," said the statement.

The other Syrian is suspected of helping to kill two people and torturing at least 2,000 people as an intelligence worker between July 2011 and January 2012, it said.

In the summer of 2011, he manned a checkpoint near Damascus where around 100 people per day were arrested then jailed and tortured in the prison headed by Anwar R.

The two were arrested after French authorities detained another Syrian in France over similar accusations, said the prosecutors.

"From April 2011 at the latest, the Syrian regime started to suppress with brutal force all anti-government activities of the opposition nationwide," the prosecution statement said.

"The Syrian secret services played an essential role in this. The aim was to use the intelligence services to stop the protest movement as early as possible."

The conflict in Syria has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Several other legal cases are now pending in Germany against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Although the alleged abuses did not happen in Germany, the case has been filed under the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows any country to pursue perpetrators regardless of where the crime was committed.

Germany, Norway and Sweden are the only three European countries with universal jurisdiction over war crimes. More than 600,000 Syrians live in Germany.

Last year, German prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for Jamil Hassan, a top Syrian official who headed the notorious airforce intelligence directorate and is accused of overseeing the torture and murder of hundreds of detainees.

The Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has also joined with torture survivors to file criminal complaints against 10 high-ranking Syrian officials, accusing them of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Efforts to prosecute members of the Assad government have repeatedly failed because Syria is not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Russia and China have also vetoed attempts to give the ICC a mandate to set up a special tribunal for Syria