Syrians have the right to access and follow the proceedings of the ‘Al-Khatib’ trial in their own language.

Press Release
Paris – August 14, 2020

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), Caesar Families Association (CFA) and Freedoms Support Group have filed a constitutional complaint against the refusal of the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz to provide a simultaneous translation of the trial proceedings to Arabic.
The request for such a translation was made by a number of journalists and civil society organizations in July. A research center also called for the recording of the trial sessions. However, the court rejected both requests.

Regarding its refusal to provide an Arabic translation, the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz outlined a number of justifications for its decision that do not take into account the exceptional circumstances of the trial. It stipulated that a translation goes against the law and the standards of procedure pertaining to German trials. Furthermore, the court claimed that providing access to translation to the Arabic language only would not be fair to non-Arab journalists. However, this ignores the fact that the trial concerns crimes of murder and torture committed in Syria, by Syrian state officials, and against Syrian citizens.

Furthermore, the court’s worry over recording the trial sessions is not properly justified, as Syrians have the right to access and preserve such recordings, especially that this is the first trial regarding crimes committed by Syrian state officials against thousands of Syrian citizens.
Mazen DARWISH, director and founder of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), says: “The ‘Al-Khatib’ trial in Koblenz is a trial for crimes of torture committed in a systematic manner by a Syrian governmental and security apparatus, and it cannot be reduced to the trial of two people, whatever their rank or involvement in the execution of these crimes might be. This trial is a historic moment that showcases the systematic crimes that the Syrian government has committed for decades. It is imperative that all Syrians have access to its details in their own language and be able to document it with clear records.”

The complaint filed by the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), Caesar Families Association (CFA) and Freedoms Support Group parallels the efforts of other Syrian and European organizations to call for a simultaneous Arabic translation of the trial proceedings. The first request issued in July had refuted all the Court’s worries regarding its inability to provide translators or the necessary equipment. This is because, since the beginning of the trial in April, the court has provided simultaneous translation for the accused, witnesses, and plaintiffs. It has not provided the same for the public despite the presence of adequate equipment in the courtroom.
Today, a request is submitted to the Constitutional Court to call for temporary exceptional measures that can provide simultaneous translation to Arabic in proportion to the importance of this trial for the victims, their families and the general Syrian public.

Mariam ALHALLAK, member of the Caesar Families Association (CFA), states: “It is our right, as family members of the victims, to access the proceedings of the ‘Al-Khatib’ trials. We had hoped that this trial could take place in Syria, and that we could see the criminals behind bars in our own country. This is currently impossible, but it is certainly possible to modify some procedures so that we can follow the trial proceedings.”

The applicants of this request welcome the judicial efforts made by the German judiciary in general and the regional court in Koblenz, particularly regarding the universal jurisdiction over crimes in Syria, and they believe that the court should take into account the exceptional circumstances of the trial of ‘Al-Khatib’. This also applies to the Syrian civil society, victims’ associations and the Arab media, all of which play a major role in shedding light on accountability efforts, transferring trial proceedings to all relevant stakeholders, and creating pressure to put a stop to crimes committed in Syria.

Contacts
Yasmine Al-Mashan, Coordinator of the Caesar Families Association (CFA):
yasmen.almashan@caesarfamilies.org

Oumou Houmoud, Communication Manager| Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM):
communication.manager@scm.bz