Germany charges Syrian doctor with crimes against humanity

Alla Mousa is accused of 18 counts of torturing people in military hospitals in the Syrian cities of Homs and Damascus.

A Syrian doctor has been charged in Germany with crimes against humanity for allegedly torturing people in military hospitals in his homeland and killing one of them, according to German federal prosecutors.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Karlsruhe said in a statement on Wednesday that Alla Mousa, who came to Germany in 2015 and practiced medicine before he was arrested last year, is accused of 18 counts of torturing people in military hospitals in the Syrian cities of Homs and Damascus.

The allegations include charges that Mousa tried to make people infertile.

A federal indictment charged him with murder, severe bodily harm, attempted bodily harm and dangerous bodily harm, the statement said.

Prosecutors said after the beginning of the opposition uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, protesters were frequently arrested and tortured.

Injured civilians who were thought to be members of the opposition were also taken to military hospitals, where they were tortured and sometimes killed.

Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reporting from Berlin, said it was “worth making the point that the individual concerned has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in this country and as yet we don’t know how he intends to plead”.

“Nor indeed do we know when a potential date for his trial will come,” he said. “We know now that the German government is very keen to pursue those who it believes are responsible for crimes against humanity committed in the Syrian civil war because they believe they can assert the principle of universal jurisdiction relating to war crimes.”

Setting precedent

In February, a German court convicted a former member of Assad’s secret police of facilitating the torture of prisoners in a landmark ruling that human rights activists said would set a precedent for other cases in the decade-long conflict.

Eyad Al-Gharib was convicted of accessory to crimes against humanity and sentenced by the Koblenz state court to four and a half years in prison.

It was the first time that a court outside Syria ruled in a case alleging Syrian government officials committed crimes against humanity.

German prosecutors invoked the principle of universal jurisdiction for serious crimes to bring the case that involved victims and defendants in Germany.

In the current case, prosecutors accuse the Syrian doctor of having poured alcohol over the genitals of a teenage boy and another man and setting fire to them with a cigarette lighter at military hospital No 608 in Homs.

He is also accused of torturing nine more people in the same hospital in 2011 by kicking and beating them.

The indictment also alleges that Mousa kicked and beat a jailed man who was suffering an epileptic seizure.

A few days later, the doctor gave the man medication and he subsequently died without the exact cause of death ever clearly being identified, German prosecutors said.

The indictment lists other cases of alleged torture at the military hospital in Homs, including hanging people from the ceiling and beating them with a plastic baton, and pouring flammable liquids over the hand of one of them and burning it.

Mousa is also accused of kicking another patient’s open, infected wound, pouring disinfectant into it and setting it on fire.

In one case in 2012, Mousa allegedly beat and kicked an inmate severely.

When the man defended himself by kicking back, Mousa beat him to the ground with the help of a male nurse and shortly after administered a toxic substance that killed the inmate, German prosecutors allege.

In addition to the torture allegations at the military hospital in Homs, Mousa is also accused of abusing inmates at the military hospital Mezzeh No 601 in Damascus between late 2011 and March 2012.

Grave crimes

The general secretary of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights lauded the indictment of Mousa.

“Grave crimes against Syria’s civil society are not only taking place in the detention centres of the intelligence services: Syria’s torture and extermination system is complex and only exists thanks to the support of a wide variety of actors,” Wolfgang Kaleck said in a statement.

“With the trial (of Mousa), the role of military hospitals and medical staff in this system could be addressed for the very first time.”

Kaleck also noted the trial could be important in terms of addressing sexual violence.

“Sexual violence is being used as a weapon – systematically and intentionally – against the opposition in Syria. Those affected not only suffer physical and psychological consequences but are also stigmatised and discriminated by society,” Kaleck said, adding that Mousa’s trial “could make them seen and thus also send an important signal to the many survivors who have remained silent until now”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies