Today, 23rd February 2023, the Berlin Regional Court, using the universal jurisdiction stipulated in the German constitution, issued its verdict against Mouwafak Al. D., sentencing him to aggravated life imprisonment for having committed a war crime against unarmed civilians in Syria.
Mouwafak Al. D. was arrested in Berlin on the 4th of August 2021, and the competent German Public Prosecutor issued an indictment against him and referred his file to the Berlin Regional Court on the 15th of August 2022.
The indictment was based on the plaintiffs and witnesses’ testimonies and other evidence provided by them and collected by the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research (SCLSR), with the significant support from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).
The verdict confirmed that the accused was a member of the Popular Front militia “General Command”, and later of the “Free Palestine” militia led by Yasser Qashlaq, affiliated with the Syrian regime.
Since the beginning of the demonstrations and popular protests in the Yarmouk camp, the accused participated in suppressing the demonstrations, beating and arresting the peaceful protesters, and then controlling Yarmouk and the civilians residing in the camp.
He also participated in besieging Yarmouk and in preventing medicine and food from entering the camp. These acts led to the death of dozens of civilians. The accused was also responsible for a checkpoint that was located at the north-entrance of the Yarmouk camp, the “Al Batikha roundabout”.
After a truce was established in the beginning of 2014 in order for some foodstuff and medicine to enter Yarmouk’s residents through UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), on the 23rd of March 2014, Mouwafak Al. D. deliberately targeted a gathering of civilians who were trying to receive food aid, by firing an anti-tank weapon shell at them, killing at least seven civilians and wounding dozens.
The Berlin Regional Court began the open trial sessions on the 25th of August 2022. Through thirty public sessions, the court heard the testimonies of the plaintiffs, witnesses, defence witnesses and experts, and concluded with the pleadings of the Public Prosecutor, the plaintiff’s attorneys, and the defence attorneys.
We at the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research strongly welcome the court’s verdict. We appreciate the high standards of justice known to the German judiciary, and we thank the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the German Police War Crime Unit for the great efforts they made to collect and verify evidence, witness testimonies, and build the file to bring it and present it to the court.
We also warmly thank ECCHR, and especially human rights lawyer Patrick Kroker, for their efforts and continued support for accountability processes in relation with the Syria case.
A lot of respect and admiration to the true heroes, the plaintiffs and witnesses who, despite all the dangers and threats they were exposed to during the trial, and despite the great pain they suffered as a result of the absence of justice for a long time and the remembrance of what they were subjected to, gave all their efforts with the hope to achieve justice, not only for themselves but for all victims of crimes committed in Syria.
Germany has proven for the second time that it is a pioneer in holding war criminals and individuals who committed crimes against humanity accountable, not only in Europe, but also in the world, and that it continues to send a very strong message to criminals that they will not find a safe haven here.
There is no peace with war criminals ruling in Syria, and there is no future without justice.