Germany’s federal prosecutor heard witness testimony in a landmark case filed by the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) this week. Several Syrian ex-detainees, including two Syrian lawyers, who say they were victims of torture in the regime’s cells, are accusing six high-ranking Syrian officials close to President Bashar al-Assad of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Assad has denied claims of torture in Syrian prisons, saying in an interview in February of this year that the allegations had “not a shred of evidence.” The ex-detainees, however, detail brutal beatings, sexual violence and systematic torture in three Damascus prisons — branches 215, 227 and 235 — between October 2011 and July 2015 in their witness testimonies.
Libya’s two main rival leaders met for diplomatic talks in France this week and have agreed to call a ceasefire and hold elections early next year. French President Macron hosted the talks and commended the two leaders, Libya’s UN-backed prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, and Khalifa Haftar – the military strongman whose forces control large tracts of land in the east of the country – for agreeing that a political solution is the only way to settle the dispute over Libya. On paper, the agreement represents a step towards a political settlement to end years of violence, but previous peace deals since the 2011 fall of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi have not been honored, and the absence of a specific date for proposed new elections will be seen as a diplomatic disappointment. The communique calls for all militia to be brought under the reins of a national army under political control, but the clause is contingent on Sarraj’s ability to persuade all Tripoli’s powerful militias, many opposed to his rule, to lay down their arms. Furthermore, the ceasefire does not cover efforts either by Haftar or Sarraj militias to counter terrorism, a phrasing that will leave both sides free to interpret legitimate targets.
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