• Press Release

Torture Trial in Germany a ‘Historic Step’ Towards Justice in Syria

April 22, 2020

Sadnaya - Syria detentions - Collaboration with Forensic Architecture. Illustrations taken from the Forensic Architecture Platform. Saydnaya Military Prison is located 30km north of Damascus, Syria. The prison is under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Defence and operated by the Military Police. Saydnaya became notorious for the use of torture and excessive force following a riot by detainees in 2008. There are two buildings on the Saydnaya site, which between them could contain 10,000-20,000 prisoners. In April 2016, Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture travelled to Turkey to meet a group of survivors from Saydnaya prison. Since 2011, journalists and other monitoring groups have been unable to visit the prison and speak with prisoners from Saydnaya, so this was an opportunity to tell their stories. As there are no images of Saydnaya, we were dependent on the memories of survivors to recreate what happened inside. Using architectural and acoustic modelling, we helped witnesses reconstruct the architecture of the prison and their experiences of detention. The interview techniques were developed by Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, in consultation with the university’s Forensic Psychology Unit.
The first trial of two former officials of the Syrian government’s security service charged with crimes against humanity marks an important step towards justice, Amnesty International said.

Tomorrow (April 23), Anwar Raslan, reported to have been charged with torture including rape and sexual violence, and Eyad al-Gharib, reported to have been charged with torture, will go on trial at the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany.

“This trial is a historic step in the struggle for justice for the tens of thousands of people unlawfully detained, tortured and killed in Syrian government’s prisons and detention centers”, said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.

“This would not have been possible without the bravery and sacrifices of Syrian survivors, families of victims, and scores of other individuals and organizations who have relentlessly pursued justice and truth, often putting their own lives at risk in doing so.

“At a time when Syrians feel that the international community has failed them, this trial brings renewed hope that some measure of justice is still possible. All survivors and families of victims have the right to truth, reparation and justice.

Amnesty International is also calling on states to follow Germany’s steps in initiating similar proceedings against individuals suspected of crimes under international law, including by resourcing their war crimes units.”


Amnesty International has documented and publicly reported on the Syrian government’s systematic practice of arbitrary detention, torture, other ill-treatment and enforced disappearance for decades. The organization has published several reports documenting the inhuman conditions across Syria’s prisons – where enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment lead to death in detention, and extrajudicial executions following sham trials are rife. These practices, committed in a widespread and systematic manner, amount to crimes against humanity, as well as war crimes.

To date, universal jurisdiction has been the only means for Syrians hoping to see justice for the war crimes and crimes against humanity. Amnesty International continues to call on the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.