Germany charges Syrian doctor with crimes against humanity

Man is charged with torturing people in military hospitals in the Syrian cities of Homs and Damascus

Syrians walk past the traffic in the streets of Hijaz in Damascus on January 21, 2019.   Israel struck what it said were Iranian targets in Damascus early today in response to missile fire it blamed on Iran, sparking concerns of an escalation after a monitor reported 11 fighters killed. / AFP / LOUAI BESHARA

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, German prosecutors said on Wednesday.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Karlsruhe said that Dr Alla Mousa, who went to Germany in 2015 and practised medicine before he was arrested last year, is accused of 18 counts of torturing people in military hospitals in Homs and Damascus.

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

He was charged with murder, severe bodily harm, attempted bodily harm and dangerous bodily harm, the office said.

Prosecutors said that after the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in 2011, protesters were often arrested and tortured.

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

In February, a German court convicted a former member of Mr Al Assad’s secret police of facilitating the torture of prisoners.

It was 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 being an 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 against Syrian government officials charged with crimes against humanity.

German prosecutors invoked universal jurisdiction for serious crimes to bring the case, which involved victims and defendants in Germany.

Prosecutors accuse Dr Mousa of pouring alcohol over the genitals of a teenage boy and a 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 alleges that Dr Mousa kicked and beat a jailed man who was having an epileptic seizure.

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

The indictment lists other cases of 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 and burning it.

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

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

When the man kicked back, Dr 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 claim.

Dr Mousa is also accused of abusing inmates at the military hospital Mezzeh No 601 in Damascus, between late 2011 and March 2012.

Wolfgang Kaleck, general secretary of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, praised the indictment.

“Grave crimes against Syria’s civil society are not only taking place in the detention centres of the intelligence services," Mr Kaleck said.

"Syria’s torture and extermination system is complex and only exists thanks to the support of a wide variety of actors.

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

Mr Kaleck said the trial could also be important in addressing sexual violence.

“Sexual violence is being used as a weapon, systematically and intentionally, against the opposition in Syria," he said.

"Those affected not only suffer physical and psychological consequences, but are also stigmatised and discriminated against by society.”

Mr Kaleck said Dr Mousa’s trial “could make them seen and thus also send an important signal to the many survivors who have remained silent until now".

Updated: July 28th 2021, 10:13 PM