Meeting: Organized by MENA Prison Forum & UMAM D&R
A Conversation with Fritz Streiff
UMAM Office, Beirut
NOV 16, 2022

On November 16, 2022, the MENA Prison Forum hosted human rights lawyer and podcaster  Fritz Streiff to talk about his podcasts Branch 251, which covered the Koblenz trials of members of two members of the Syrian regime, and The Syrian Trials, which “takes the listener on a trip through the stories around the scattered landscape of justice and accountability efforts for the atrocities crimes committed by the regime in Syria.”  The conversation was moderated by MPF’s Mina Ibrahim in the presence of members and friends of the MPF, and followed a previous MPF talk hosted on January 31, 2022 with Streiff and Syrian artist and activist Amer Matar following the final verdicts of the Koblenz trial, Germany.

Ibrahim opened the conversation by emphasizing how Streiff’s work is significant not only because it brings the sophisticated legal processes of justice and accountability to ‘ordinary’ listeners, but also, as Streiff mentions in the first episode of The Syrian Trials, because it reflects something that makes a lot of people very pessimistic, which is the reality that even with the trials, the Assad regime still seems to be fully in power and does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. However, in spite of this, Streiff has continually worked to render more widely accessible the evidence and criminal proceedings against the Syrian regime. During the conversation, Streiff noted that both Branch 251 and The Syrian Trials sought to extend the trials in Koblenz and the other ones, both current and future, in different German cities, outside the courtrooms. By inviting victims and survivors of torture and also others who lost their loved ones as a result of the Assad’s regime atrocities that preceded and succeeded the 2011 uprisings, Streiff’s podcasts worked on delivering the limits and the critiques that Syrian (activists) gave to the Koblenz trials. However, Streiff also noted that the trials are not just about achieving prosecutions and sending perpetrators to prison, as they’re also about establishing the truth of what really happened in Syria. Indeed, the trials are also proving the Syrian people’s ongoing struggle to make their voices heard on an international level. 

During the subsequent Q&A session, Fritz Streiff was mainly asked if he was satisfied with the outcomes of the Koblenz trial. While Streiff positively responded by stressing how the long route of justice should pass by the hurdles of immunities, impunity, and unknown political compromises, some of the attendees wondered if such trials would be ever able to meet the demands of the Syrian people. The debate was based on how the verdicts of the Koblenz trials do not translate the crimes committed not only by Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib, the defendants who were ultimately convicted, but also by the Syrian regime. For this reason, Streiff’s podcasts are key as he seeks to link the legal dimensions of the trials with a grounded, vernacular approach that centralizes and archives people’s ordeals and experiences for ongoing and future prosecutions.