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Dutch royal family to temporarily stop using Golden Coach

Written by By Sana Noor HaqMick Krever, CNN

King Willem-Alexander has said the Dutch royal family will temporarily stop using the Golden Coach until “the Netherlands is ready,” following criticism of colonial ties to the horse-drawn carriage.

“Our history contains much to be proud of. At the same time, it also offers learning material for faults to recognize and to avoid in the future,” King Willem-Alexander, the ruling monarch in the Netherlands, said in a video message published on the royal family’s verified YouTube account on Thursday.

“We cannot rewrite the past. We can try to come to terms with it together. That also applies to the colonial past. Instead, a collective effort is needed that goes deeper and lasts longer. An effort that unites us rather than divides us.”

The carriage — known colloquially as “De Gouden Koets” — has been at the center of fierce debate in recent years.

One of the panels on the Golden Coach, named “Tribute from the Colonies,” depicts people of color from the colonies kneeling in subordination to a young white woman who represents the Netherlands, while presenting her with gifts, according to the Amsterdam Museum, where the coach is housed.
The Dutch Empire spanned 250 years from the 17th century to the 19th century, according to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The empire operated in regions including the Caribbean, Brazil, Suriname, southern Africa and Asia, where people were also enslaved and exploited by imperialists.
In 1990, the Curaçaoan artist Ruben La Cruz demonstrated against the colonial vignette at a festival in Rotterdam. Since then multiple public figures, including an activist and two members of the Dutch parliament, have called for the carriage to no longer be used.
However, these demands grew louder after the global Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, when many countries were confronted with their racial and colonial histories.
The Golden Coach was given to Queen Wilhelmina, the first female monarch of the Netherlands, in 1898. She celebrated her 18th birthday that year, and had her coronation soon after.
King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands attends celebrations marking his 49th birthday on King's Day on April 27, 2016, in Zwolle, the Netherlands.

King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands attends celebrations marking his 49th birthday on King’s Day on April 27, 2016, in Zwolle, the Netherlands. Credit: Michel Porro/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

Now it is mainly used on Prince’s Day, which is when King Willem-Alexander opens the Dutch parliament on the third Tuesday in September, and makes a speech outlining the government’s agenda for the coming year, according to the Dutch government website.
The carriage is also linked to other prestigious events including royal weddings and inaugurations.

King Willem-Alexander added, “The Golden Coach will be able to be driven again when the Netherlands is ready. And that is now not the case.

“All citizens of this country should be able to feel that they are equal and get the same opportunities. Everyone should be able to feel part of what has been built in our country, and to the proud of that. Also those Dutch citizens with ancestors who were not free in the East or the West.”

“As long as there are people who live in the Netherlands who feel the pain of discrimination on a daily basis, the pain of the past will cast its shadow on our time and it is not yet over.

“Listening to and understanding each other are essential conditions for getting to reconciliation and taking away the pain in people’s souls.”

Addressing the Dutch public, he said the Golden Coach could be driven again on Prince’s Day “only if we take this road to reconciliation together,” describing it as a day when “we celebrate our democracy and our solidarity as Dutch people.”

He did not specify a date when the carriage could be used again.

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32 Years After Civil War, Mundane Moments Trigger Awful Memories

“Cards was my childhood, how can I hate it?” Raoul said recently. “And I was the best.”

One night, as Raoul slept — his bedroom window had the dining table nailed to it, to protect against snipers — bombing started. His mother cried out for him, looking frantically until they found Raoul, then 5, crying while hugging a framed photo of the Virgin Mary that had fallen from the wall, praying for his life. He developed a stutter after that.

“When I left Lebanon, I left. I only took my stutter with me,” said Raoul, who has lived in the United Arab Emirates and Poland since leaving Lebanon. “That’s it. That’s the baggage I took with me.”

I was lucky. I did not grow up in Lebanon, at least not full time, as my father worked abroad, waiting for the war to end and the chance to move back.

Yet every summer, no matter what happened — an Israeli invasion, the suicide bombing that killed hundred of U.S. Marines — we went back, to be with our family, to hold their hands and say: We have not abandoned you. It was the most twisted of survivor’s guilt, a role I played every summer until we moved back to Lebanon in the early 1990s when I was 10.

We had our close calls during those summer visits. In 1985, my mother took my siblings and me to run an errand and she pulled off the highway to take another route. Seconds later, a giant explosion ripped through where our car had been idling, killing at least 50 people. We watched the wounded flee, blood streaming down their faces.

Many are left wondering how their adult lives would be better if their childhoods had been different.

For Abed Bibi, a 58-year old married to a friend of mine, he cannot handle the dark.

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Turkmenistan wants to close the ‘Gates of Hell’

Editor’s Note — Sign up for Unlocking the World, CNN Travel’s weekly newsletter. Get news about destinations opening and closing, inspiration for future adventures, plus the latest in aviation, food and drink, where to stay and other travel developments.

(CNN) — This week in travel, the United States declared Canada a “very high” risk destination, the world’s most powerful passports for 2022 were revealed and Turkmenistan’s president called for the country’s “Gates of Hell” to close.

Canada deemed ‘very high’ risk

Say it ain’t so! After very low Covid numbers throughout the pandemic, the world’s second-largest country in terms of total area has recently seen a very steep rise in cases.

Spirit Island in Canada's Jasper National Park.

Spirit Island in Canada’s Jasper National Park.

Jeff Penner/Adobe Stock

Passport envy

Travelers have never had it so good.

No, seriously. Pandemic restrictions aside, passport holders worldwide now enjoy visa-free entry to 107 countries, on average — nearly twice as many as in 2006.

Problem is, there’s no such thing as an average passport. A new report says two Asian nations hold the title of world’s most powerful passports in 2022, and the gap between the highest-ranking countries and those at the bottom has never been wider.
Then there are those extra-special VIP passports — diplomatic, investigative, even presidential — with rights the rest of us can only dream about. Here’s our explainer on the passports that open all doors.

The world’s shortest flight

In Scotland’s Orkney Islands, there’s a regular scheduled flight that takes less time than it does to take off your belt and shoes for the airport security tray.

Loganair flight LM711, between the islands of Westray and Papa Westray, covers a 1.7-mile route and takes just 53 seconds on a good day. Here’s what it’s like on the world’s shortest passenger flight.
And if you’re interested in economizing in the world of aviation, check out our story on why commercial airliners might soon be flying with just one pilot.

2021: Year of the Unruly Airline Passenger

Assaults on crew members. Public intoxication. Verbal abuse. 2021 was the worst on record for unruly passenger behavior on US planes, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration.

And this year’s not looking much better — already American Airlines is saying a man’s been apprehended after damaging a plane during the boarding process.

‘Gates of Hell’ may soon shut

Turkmenistan’s Darvaza gas crater is celebrated around the world as the closest thing on Earth to an honest-to-goodness portal to the Underworld.

The crater was formed in the early 1970s, when the ground collapsed during a Soviet gas drilling expedition, and it’s been burning off natural gas ever since.

In the world of international tourist attractions, if the Darvaza Crater is Hell, London’s much-mocked Marble Arch Mound is a sort of underwhelming Purgatory. The $8 million lumpy hillock closed January 9, just six months after opening.

Precious family letters arrive home

A family’s irreplaceable collection of letters from the 1940s to 1970s were accidentally left on a Southwest Airlines flight to Chicago. Against all the odds, they were reunited with their owner.

In case you missed it

The Soviet Union built one of the world’s most incredible flying machines.

This “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” Tokyo podcast might help get you in the mood.

Is there anything more curvaceously carbalicious than the humble potato?

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Hackers Bring Down Government Sites in Ukraine

Often, untangling the digital threads of such cyberoperations can takes days or weeks, which is one of the appeals of their use in modern conflicts. Sophisticated cybertools have turned up in standoffs between Israel and Iran, and the United States blamed Russia for using hacking to influence the 2016 election in the United States to benefit Donald J. Trump.

Ukraine has long been viewed as a testing ground for Russian online operations, a sort of free-fire zone for cyberweaponry in a country already entangled in a real world shooting war with Russian-backed separatists in two eastern provinces. The U.S. government has traced some of the most drastic cyberattacks of the past decade to Russian actions in Ukraine.

Tactics seen first in Ukraine have later popped up elsewhere. A Russian military spyware strain called X-Agent or Sofacy that Ukrainian cyber experts say was used to hack Ukraine’s Central Election Commission during a 2014 presidential election, for example, was later found in the server of the Democratic National Committee in the United States after the electoral hacking attacks in 2016.

Other types of malware like BlackEnergy, Industroyer and KillDisk, intended to sabotage computers used to control industrial processes, shut down electrical substations in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016, causing blackouts, including in the capital, Kyiv.

The next year, a cyberattack targeting Ukrainian businesses and government agencies that spread, perhaps inadvertently, around the world in what Wired magazine later called “the most devastating cyberattack in history.” The malware, known as NotPetya, had targeted a type of Ukrainian tax preparation software but apparently spun out of control, according to experts.

The attack initially seemed narrowly focused on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. It coincided with the assassination of a Ukrainian military intelligence officer in a car bombing in Kyiv and the start of an E.U. policy granting Ukrainians visa-free travel, an example of the type of integration with the West that Russia has opposed.

But NotPetya spread around the world, with devastating results, illustrating the risks of collateral damage from military cyberattacks for people and businesses whose lives are increasingly conducted online, even if they live far from conflict zones. Russian companies, too, suffered when the malware started to circulate in Russia.

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20 of the world’s best soups

(CNN) — If a steaming bowl of soup strikes you as the ultimate in old-fashioned comfort, you’ve got plenty of company. Soup is one of the world’s oldest and most universal foods, said Janet Clarkson, author of the book “Soup: A Global History.”

“Every culture has some kind of soup,” she said. “It’s got very ancient roots.” Early people simmered everything from turtle shells to lengths of bamboo in soup, she writes in the book, turning out metal soup pots starting in the Bronze Age.

Boiling food made it possible to subsist on stable grains, with herbs and other ingredients added for nourishment or medicinal purposes.

Each time you deliver a pot of soup to a friend with the sniffles, Clarkson said you’re in fact carrying on an age-old tradition. “Separating food and medicine — that’s not how ancient people thought of it,” she said. “I think in every country in the world, historically, some soups were seen as restorative.”

That’s true no matter what you call it. Today, soup leans brothy while stews are more substantial, but the world’s spoonable foods have never fit neatly into the two English-language categories.

While Clarkson dove into centuries of etymology to trace the history of soup, potage and broth, she settled on a generously broad take. “Just some stuff cooked in water,” she wrote, “with the flavored water becoming a crucial part of the dish.”

It’s a definition that leaves room for the world’s tremendous culinary diversity. These are CNN’s nominations for 20 of the best soups around the world:

Banga | Nigeria

Banga is so popular in Nigeria that shops sell ready-mixed packets of spice.

Banga is so popular in Nigeria that shops sell ready-mixed packets of spice.

Shutterstock

It’s so popular that packets of ready-mixed banga spice are sold in shops. Most blends include African nutmeg, castor seed, orima, jansa and beletete leaves.

The spices infuse a rich, red sauce that’s the soup’s main draw: Soak it up with eba or a ball of starch, two Nigerian staples both made from cassava prepared with different methods.

Beef pho (phở bò) | Vietnam

A bowl of beef pho is sure to cure what ails you.

A bowl of beef pho is sure to cure what ails you.

Leisa Tyler/LightRocket/Getty Images

Broth is simmered for hours with cinnamon, star anise and other warm spices to create a wonderfully aromatic base for this rice noodle soup.

And while today’s pho restaurants serve a wide range of flavors, beef is the original. By 1930, Nguyen explained, the soup was served with slices of raw beef cooked gently in the broth.

Today, beef pho remains the most beloved version in Vietnam, with options that include the original raw beef, a mix of raw and cooked beef, brisket and tendon.

Borscht | Ukraine

Tender beets are just the start of borscht's tangy delights.

Tender beets are just the start of borscht’s tangy delights.

Shutterstock

Chunks of tender beets swim in brilliant red broth for a soup that’s beloved in Ukraine and across Eastern Europe. Often topped with a rich dollop of sour cream, borscht is anything but basic beet soup. It gets a tangy kick from kvass, a lacto-fermented beet juice that’s another regional specialty.

Bouillabaisse | France

Bouillabaisse is synonymous with Marseille, France.

Bouillabaisse is synonymous with Marseille, France.

Shutterstock

A fisherman’s stew turned culinary icon, bouillabaisse distills classic Mediterranean flavors into a dish synonymous with the coastal city of Marseille. Saffron, olive oil, fennel, garlic and tomatoes blend with fish fresh from the sea.

At one time, that fish would reflect each day’s catch, but things have gotten a bit stricter.

According to signatories of the 1980 Bouillabaisse Charter — a collective attempt by local chefs to ensure the quality of the French soup — the most authentic recipe must include at least four kinds of seafood chosen from a list that includes monkfish and crab.

Caldo verde | Portugal

This hearty soup hails from Portugal's wine country.

This hearty soup hails from Portugal’s wine country.

Shutterstock

Thinly sliced greens meld with potatoes and onions in this homey soup from Portugal’s wine-producing Minho region. Now, the soup is a culinary star from upscale cafes to rural kitchens, the definition of down-home comfort food.

In many versions, tender Portuguese chouriço sausage adds an undercurrent of smoky, salty flavor that makes the soup even heartier. Enjoy alongside a glass of Minho’s famed vinho verde wine.

Chorba frik | Algeria, Libya and Tunisia

Chorba frik is popular in North Africa after the sun sets during Ramadan.

Chorba frik is popular in North Africa after the sun sets during Ramadan.

Shutterstock

Durum wheat harvested while green, called freekeh, adds satisfying heft and nourishment to this North African soup, which is especially beloved during the holy time of Ramadan.

The tender grains absorb a tomato broth and aromatic spices, their flavor melding with chickpeas plus stewed chicken, beef, mutton or lamb. Serve with lemon wedges and a hunk of kesra bread.

Chupe de camarones | Peru

Shrimp lovers will want to try the Peruvian soup known as chupe de camarones.

Shrimp lovers will want to try the Peruvian soup known as chupe de camarones.

Katherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty Images

This creamy shrimp chowder is a specialty of Arequipa, a historic city surrounded by towering volcanoes. Cold nights in the mountains are perfect for the hearty dish: Tender shrimp swim alongside chunks of Andean potatoes and corn.

It’s got a kick, too. The addition of ají amarillo, a chili pepper with a lilting, fruity flavor, adds satisfying spice to balance out the rich and creamy ingredients. Maybe that explains the soup’s reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac.

Gazpacho | Spain

Gazpacho is a great way to enjoy a cold treat on a hot day.

Gazpacho is a great way to enjoy a cold treat on a hot day.

Shutterstock

Summer in Andalusia brings searing weather, ideal for cooling down with a bowl of this chilled vegetable soup. Today’s most classic version includes tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic and olive oil, with a handful of stale breadcrumbs added for body.

Arabs brought the dish to the Iberian Peninsula centuries before Spaniards tasted tomatoes, a New World ingredient. The original was a blend of bread, garlic and olive oil, pounded in a mortar and seasoned with vinegar.

Groundnut soup | West Africa

Sweet potatoes and okra are stars in this particular version of groundnut soup, popular throughout West Africa.

Sweet potatoes and okra are stars in this particular version of groundnut soup, popular throughout West Africa.

Shutterstock

As with so many culinary treats, groundnut soup ignores international boundaries: Meat, fish or chicken simmered into a thick peanut soup is pure comfort food in countries across West Africa. Versions range from Gambian domoda — the national dish — to a Nigerian take cooked with bitter, leafy greens.

No matter the country, such soups and stews are creamy, rich and salty, a satisfying combination that often gets a fiery jolt from the addition of Scotch bonnet peppers.

Gumbo | United States

Chicken, sausage and shrimp festoon this gumbo.

Chicken, sausage and shrimp festoon this gumbo.

Tom McCorkle/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Cultures and flavors meld in a hearty soup that’s a star of Louisiana cuisine, influenced by West African, Native Choctaw and French cuisines. Versions made with seafood, chicken and sausage are among the most popular today, but there are myriad ways to make this Southern specialty.

Ground, dried sassafras leaves — called filé and long harvested by the Choctaw people — give many gumbo recipes a distinctive spice. Some cooks thicken their soup with a cooked flour paste called roux, while others swear by sautéed slices of okra.

Every possible version is on display each year at the World Champion Gumbo Cookoff in New Iberia, Louisiana, where cooks battle for some serious soup-master bragging rights.

Harira | Morocco

Moroccan harira uses chickpeas in a savory tomato broth to superb effect.

Moroccan harira uses chickpeas in a savory tomato broth to superb effect.

Shutterstock

When the sun sets during the month of Ramadan, many Moroccans break their fasts with a hot bowl of this comforting chickpea stew. Cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and pepper lend warming spice to the savory tomato broth, which soaks into tender chickpeas. It’s also widely enjoyed in Algeria.
While vegetarian recipes are popular, the most classic version is simmered with tender chunks of lamb or other meat. It’s not just fasting fare for Muslims; some North African Jews also prepare harira to break the annual fast of Yom Kippur.

Kharcho | Georgia

A plum sauce gives kharcho its zesty flavor.

A plum sauce gives kharcho its zesty flavor.

Shutterstock

Tart plum sauce called tkemali adds bright, zesty flavor to this traditional soup, which is one of Georgia’s most beloved dishes.

It’s made with unripe plums, whose sour note balances the richness of fatty beef and ground walnuts cooked into the soup. The aromatic kick, though, comes from the spice mix khmeli suneli, a blend of coriander, savory, fenugreek, black pepper, marigold and more.

Lanzhou beef noodle soup | China

Of course a Chinese soup makes the best 20 list -- one taste of lanzhou beef noodle soup will tell you whyl

Of course a Chinese soup makes the best 20 list — one taste of lanzhou beef noodle soup will tell you whyl

Shutterstock

Shaping — or pulling — la mian noodles by hand for this traditional soup is an art in itself. Artisans use a finely milled, high-gluten flour and alkaline powder to mix a stretchy dough, then pull and fold a single piece of dough to make enough noodles for a bowl of soup.

Slip them into a bowl of beef broth for a world-class soup that includes tender beef, pale slices of radish, chili oil and fresh herbs. (At some shops, diners may even ask for noodles of a preferred thickness and shape.)

Mohinga | Myanmar

This version of mohinga features catfish, rice noodles, chicken eggs and lime.

This version of mohinga features catfish, rice noodles, chicken eggs and lime.

Shutterstock

Soup is what’s for breakfast in much of Myanmar, where sidewalk vendors and tea shops hawk steaming bowls of mohinga out of enormous vats. The soul of this noodle soup is the aromatic broth, which is simmered with herbs and thickened with toasted rice powder.

Fish lends added richness, while the thin rice noodles are perfect for slurping. Mohinga is so beloved that it’s gone from breakfast dish to anytime snack, and each region has its own twist on the classic soup.

Menudo | Mexico

Menudo is a traditional Mexican soup made with tripe and hominy. It's touted for its curative effects for hangovers.

Menudo is a traditional Mexican soup made with tripe and hominy. It’s touted for its curative effects for hangovers.

Shutterstock

Tripe simmered for hours in a piquant, garlicky broth is the ultimate Mexican hangover cure, but menudo goes far beyond morning-after remedies. It’s a favorite at weddings and big occasions, too, when an enormous pot of the traditional soup can feed dozens of guests.

It’s sheer comfort food, with kernels of hominy that get fresh bite from a garnish of raw onions, chiles and cilantro. Choose from one of two main varieties: Menudo rojo turns a deep red from chiles in the broth, while Sonoran-style Menudo blanco is a milder alternative.

Moqueca de camarão | Brazil

Shrimp floating in a coconut broth? Count us in for moqueca de camarão.

Shrimp floating in a coconut broth? Count us in for moqueca de camarão.

Shutterstock

Palm oil and tomatoes tint coconut broth a warm, orangey red in this specialty from the Bahia region of Brazil, where locals eat steaming bowls on even the hottest days.

This soup’s real draw is sweet, tender shrimp floating in the broth, however. Traditionally, moqueca de camarão is cooked in a handmade pot made from black clay and the sap of mangrove trees, then brought to the table in the same authentic vessel.

Soto ayam | Indonesia

This is chicken noodle soup with an indulgent Indonesian twist.

This is chicken noodle soup with an indulgent Indonesian twist.

Shutterstock

Chicken noodle soup may reach its culinary pinnacle in this piquant Indonesian dish. Spices such as fresh turmeric, star anise, cinnamon, lemongrass and lime leaves combine for deeply layered aroma and flavor, with the jammy yolks of soft-boiled eggs to add extra richness.

Every part of Indonesia has a local twist, and the soup is also beloved in Singapore, Malaysia and in faraway Suriname in South America, where the recipe arrived with Javanese immigrants.

Eat topped with fried shallots, fresh limes and a fiery scattering of sliced red chiles.

Tom yum goong | Thailand

Shiitake mushrooms and prawns are the stars of this version of tom yum soup.

Shiitake mushrooms and prawns are the stars of this version of tom yum soup.

Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Sweet, sour, spicy and salty, this soup’s magnificent broth is the ideal foil for sweet, tender shrimp. Aromatic ingredients include galangal, lemongrass and lime leaves, while slivers of bright red bird’s eye chilis add additional heat.

Tom yum goong is just one of many varieties of tom yum soup in Thailand — this version comes enriched with fat prawns, and is a favorite with many diners.

Tonkotsu ramen | Japan

This classic ramen soup is flavored with pork bones.

This classic ramen soup is flavored with pork bones.

Shutterstock

Long-simmered pork bones impart intense flavor to this classic ramen, whose broth is cloudy with marrow and fat. It’s a signature of Fukuoka Prefecture on the southerly island of Kyushu, but the rich soup is now served in ramen shops across the country (and world).

While the indulgent broth is the star of tonkotsu ramen, a bowl isn’t complete without slices of pork belly and a tangle of noodles that are hard in the center. Eat with a pair of chopsticks and a flat-bottomed spoon, and don’t forget to slurp — it’s believed to enhance the flavor.

Yayla çorbasi | Turkey

Yayla çorbasi speaks to a time when soup and medicine weren't considered such separate things.

Yayla çorbasi speaks to a time when soup and medicine weren’t considered such separate things.

Shutterstock

Boiled rice or barley adds grainy sweetness to this creamy yogurt soup. It’s believed to ward off colds during winter; some Turkish hospitals even serve yogurt soup to recovering patients.

A crumble of dried mint helps balance the yogurt’s slight tang. Serve with a pillowy round of fresh pita bread.

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Live Updates: Former Syrian Colonel Guilty in War Crimes Trial in Germany

ImageA Syrian campaigner holding pictures of civil war victims outside the courthouse where Anwar Raslan, a former Syrian officer, was on trial on Thursday in Koblenz, Germany.
Credit…Bernd Lauter/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A court in Germany found a former Syrian security officer guilty on Thursday of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison. He is the highest-ranking Syrian official to be held accountable for abuses committed by the government during a decade of civil war.

The former officer, Anwar Raslan, was accused of overseeing a detention center where prosecutors said at least 4,000 people were tortured and nearly 60 were killed.

The verdict marks a watershed moment for an international network of lawyers, human rights activists and Syrian war survivors who have struggled for years to bring officials who sanctioned or participated in the violence to justice.

Through nearly 11 years of civil war, the Syrian government bombed residential neighborhoods, used poison gas and tortured countless detainees in state lockups, but until now, no high-level officials had been held accountable for these acts, which human rights lawyers describe as war crimes.

Mr. Raslan’s guilty verdict, they say, bolsters the ability of European courts to pursue similar cases while sending a message to war criminals around the world that they could one day face consequences.

“This is the first time that members of the Assad regime have had to stand trial before an ordinary criminal court,” said Stefanie Bock, the director of the International Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials at the University of Marburg in Germany. “This sends a clear message to the world that certain crimes will not go unpunished.”

But while Mr. Raslan, a former colonel, held a high rank in a Syrian intelligence service, he was more of a cog than a pillar in the government of President Bashar al-Assad and its vast apparatus of repression.

After more than a decade of war, Mr. al-Assad remains in power, and there appears little chance that he or his senior advisers or military commanders will stand trial soon. They rarely travel abroad, and go only to countries they can count on not to arrest them, like Russia, a staunch supporter of Mr. al-Assad.

Other potential avenues for justice have also been blocked. Syria is not party to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and Russia and China have used their vetoes on the United Nations Security Council to prevent Syria from being referred to the court.

Germany is among a few European countries that have sought to try former Syrian officials for war crimes based on universal jurisdiction, the principle of international law that says that some crimes are so grave that they can be prosecuted anywhere.

That is how Mr. Raslan ended up on trial in the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, a small city in western Germany.

Mr. Raslan, 58, oversaw a security office and detention center in Damascus, the Syrian capital, during the early days of the war.

German prosecutors argued that his position gave him oversight of torture that included beating, kicking, electric shocks and sexual assault. Witnesses in the trial said they were fed inedible food, denied medical care and kept in overcrowded cells.

At least 58 people died because of abuse under Mr. Raslan’s authority, prosecutors said. In a statement to the court, Mr. Raslan denied that he had been involved in torture.

He entered Germany on a visa in 2014 and lived there legally until the German authorities arrested him in 2019.

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France ends UK travel ban

(CNN) — As infection rates soar across Europe, France has relaxed its travel ban on arrivals from the UK — just in time for the peak ski season.

France banned all but essential travel from the UK on December 20, when the Omicron variant was spiraling in the UK but had not yet taken hold on the continent.

But with the variant now dominant across Europe, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne announced in a tweet on 13 January that the “compelling reason for travel” requirement will be removed from 14 January.

Anyone arriving from the UK for essential reasons had previously been required to quarantine for 48 hours. That requirement will also be removed from 14 January.

Instead, the UK will be classed alongside other non-EU countries. Entry regulations stipulate that visitors must be fully vaccinated, and must present a negative Covid-19 test, either PCR or antigen, taken within 24 hours before departure.

Non-vaccinated arrivals are also allowed entry, but must register on France’s digital platform before departure, and must observe a strict quarantine period of 10 days, according to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office.

“This quarantine will be controlled by the security forces,” the statement added.

France had cut off travel for Brits at the start of a ski season which had been seen as crucial to the recovery of resort economies.

Throughout the UK’s time as the Omicron hub of Europe, triple-vaccinated visitors from the UK were permitted to visit Austria, while Italy allows double-vaccinated Brits to use the ski lifts.

Germany lifted its travel ban on Brits on January 4. Fully vaccinated visitors do not have to quarantine. Switzerland also allows fully vaccinated arrivals from the UK.

Additional reporting by Dalal Mawad in Paris

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