Khaled H. and others
Austrian prosecuting authorities are investigating alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Military Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence and General Intelligence Services including murder, extermination, torture, serious bodily harm and deprivation of liberty – in particular a former General of the General Intelligence Services from Raqqa (northeastern Syria), Khaled H.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Syrian intelligence services (Air Force Intelligence, Military Intelligence, General Intelligence Services and Political Security) have reportedly been systematically arresting, torturing and killing persons who opposed or were suspected of opposing the Syrian regime. The government’s aim has been to stop the protest movement at the earliest possible stage, and intimidate the population.
In 2016, the Austrian prosecutorial authorities reportedly initiated an investigation against Khaled H., former General of the General Intelligence Services from Raqqa. He is suspected of committing international crimes in detention facilities that were under his command. The investigation is ongoing.
Austrian authorities have further initiated investigations into several other officers of the Syrian intelligence services after 16 women and men from Syria filed a criminal complaint to the Public Prosecutor in Vienna in May 2018. The group of torture survivors – which included an Austrian citizen – filed the complaint together with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Syrian lawyers Anwar al-Bunni (Syrian Center for Legal Research and Studies) and Mazen Darwish (Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression) and the Centre for the Enforcement of Human Rights International in Vienna. Following the submission, the prosecutor heard one of the complainants and initiated a criminal investigation.
In 2020, upon the prosecutor’s request, NGOs submitted additional evidence.
In November 2020, the Austrian investigative newspaper Kurier alleged that in 2015, the Austrian Office for the Protection of the Constitution (hereinafter “the Office”) assisted a former high-level Syrian Intelligence Officer, Khaled H., in escaping France. The Office reportedly helped Khaled H. to relocate to Austria and be granted asylum there.
In 2021, investigations continued without the suspect having been arrested or indicted. In September 2021, The New Yorker and the German magazine Der Spiegel reported in depth about how the Office assisted the suspect in moving to Austria, reportedly as a favor to Israeli Mossad. As a consequence, some officers of the Austrian migration authority and the Federal Agency for State Protection and Counter Terrorism are under investigation because of suspicions of corruption and/or abuse of authority.