Syrian detained in Germany on suspicion of crimes against humanity

BERLIN (Reuters) – A Syrian national accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes through torture and enslavement between 2012 and 2015 has been arrested in Germany, prosecutors said on Friday.

The suspect, named only as Ahmad H, was a leader of a so-called shabiha militia that assisted the government of President Bashar al-Assad in its deadly crackdown in the wake of a popular uprising in 2011, the prosecutors said.

The state-sponsored militia’s campaign of intimidation allegedly included arbitrary arrests, extortion, looting, forced labour and torture.

German prosecutors said in a statement that Ahmad H was responsible for several brutal beatings of civilians, as well as two incidents in 2012 and 2015 during which he forced detainees to work while under fire and without access to food and water.

Germany has taken a pioneering role in prosecuting Syrian war criminals under universal jurisdiction laws, which allow courts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

A Syrian doctor suspected of crimes against humanity, including torturing prisoners at military hospitals in Syria, is currently on trial in Frankfurt – the country’s latest case over alleged state-backed torture in Syria’s conflict.

The Assad government denies accusations of having tortured prisoners.

(Reporting by Friederike Heine; Editing by Rachel More and Jonathan Oatis)