Syrian prison guard jailed for torture by German court in landmark ruling

Eyad al-Gharib was convicted of being complicit in the torture and murder of opponents of the regime of Bashar Assad inside the notorious Branch 251 detention centre on al-Khatib Street in Damascus.

A German court convicted a Syrian regime prison guard of crimes against humanity in a landmark court case which could pave the way for further prosecutions of alleged human rights abusers.

It marked the first time an official of the Assad regime was tried and convicted for crimes committed in Syria, Gharib was convicted in court in the German city of Koblenz in a case that could have wider repercussions for bringing alleged human rights abusers to trial.

Al-Gharib was sentenced to four and a half years.

Reaction to the verdict was swift.

Ahmed Helmi, 31 who was detained in nine prisons in Syria and later co-founded the Ta’afi Initiative, a network of survivors of torture in Assad’s jails, said he hoped it was the start of many more convictions.

Although he was not personally held in Khatib, the last word his family had of his two cousins, who disappeared nine years ago, was that they were being held in the infamous detention centre.

He himself had been tortured in five of the nine jails where he was held between 2012 and 2015.

“I’m just happy. It is the feeling we want to have in the future: that feeling of waiting for justice to take place, instead of the heartbreak of waiting for news of our disappeared loved ones,” he told The Independent.

“This is is the first time that someone involved in torture in Syria does not enjoy complete impunity,” he said.

Helmi was arrested in 2012  as a 22-year-old engineering student, for running an underground medical network treating people wounded by regime forces.

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