Two Syrians Arrested in Germany for Suspected Crimes Against Humanity

BERLIN (Reuters) -

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.

Germany, Norway and Sweden are the only three European countries with universal jurisdiction over war crimes, meaning they can prosecute and try crimes committed abroad. More than 600,000 Syrians live in Germany.

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 center 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. He is suspected of working in the department Anwar A. was directing.

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

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.