France has issued international arrest warrants for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his brother Maher, and two army generals, accusing them of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The warrants are based on a case involving two French-Syrian nationals, father and son Mazen and Patrick Dabbagh, who were arrested and tortured by Syrian intelligence agents in 2013 and later died in custody.
“It is a great victory for my family and for all Syrian victims, that after all these years of fighting for the truth to come out, high-level officials are finally brought to justice. I call on the French judicial authorities to organise this trial as soon as possible” said Obeida Dabbagh in a statement published by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
The case is one of several attempts to bring Syrian officials to justice using the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows countries to prosecute crimes committed abroad.
France is also preparing to try nine other Syrian regime officials for crimes against humanity in the first trial of its kind in the world.
The trial is expected to start in early 2024 and will be based on the testimony of a former Syrian military photographer known as Caesar, who smuggled out more than 50,000 photos of torture victims in Syrian prisons.
France is sending a strong message to the Syrian regime that it will not enjoy impunity for its crimes and that it will have to answer for them sooner or later,” said Clémence Bectarte, the head of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) litigation action group.
The Syrian government has denied the allegations and dismissed the warrants as a political maneuver to pressure and undermine its sovereignty.
The warrants come as Syria is still mired in a decade-long civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more.
The conflict has also seen the rise and fall of the Islamic State group, the involvement of regional and international powers, and the use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs by the Syrian regime.
– France issues arrest warrants for Syrian president, 3 generals alleging involvement in war crimes. ABC News, November 15, 2023
– France to try Syrian regime officials for crimes against humanity. Al Jazeera, April 5, 2023
– Syrian generals face a landmark war crimes trial in France. CNN, October 19, 2023
– France issues arrest warrant for Syria’s Assad: plaintiffs. Ahram Online, November 15, 2023