AFP – France has issued an international arrest warrant for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for complicity in crimes against humanity over a 2013 chemical attack, judicial officials and the plaintiff in the case said on Wednesday.
Judicial sources told AFP that Assad is also suspected of complicity in war crimes for an attack blamed on rebels that killed more than 1,400 people near Damascus in August 2013.
International warrants have also been issued for the arrest of Maher, Assad’s brother and de facto commander of Syria’s elite forces, and two military commanders.
The Paris court’s crime against humanity section has been investigating the chemical attack since 2021.
France claims worldwide jurisdiction over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The investigation follows a legal complaint filed by the NGO Syrian Center for Freedom of Media and Expression (SCM), the legal group Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), and the Syrian Archive, an organization that documents human rights violations in Syria. It was carried out following.
State media: Simultaneous Israeli missile attacks render Syria’s two main airports unusable https://t.co/waeArnGxfn
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 12, 2023
– “Large-scale development” –
“This is a major development,” SCM President Mazen Darwish said of Assad’s arrest warrant.
“Independent competent authorities recognize that the chemical attack could not have occurred without the knowledge of the Syrian president and that he is responsible and must be held accountable,” he told AFP.
Darwish said the case against Assad and others was supported by first-hand eyewitness testimony and a deep analysis of the Syrian military chain of command.
In 2013, activists posted an amateur video on YouTube showing the effects of the attack, including footage of dozens of bodies, many of them children, lying on the ground.
Other images showed unconscious children, people foaming at the mouth and doctors who appeared to be giving them oxygen to help them breathe.
The scene caused disgust and condemnation around the world.
A subsequent UN report said there was clear evidence of sarin gas use.
In 2013, Syria joined the global watchdog organization Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and agreed to give up all chemical weapons.
The OPCW has since blamed Damascus for a series of chemical attacks during the conflict.
The Syrian government denies the allegations, and legal complaints have also been filed in Germany and other European countries.
Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011 after President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on peaceful demonstrations escalated into a deadly conflict involving foreign forces and global jihadists.
The war killed more than 500,000 people and displaced half of the prewar population.