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France Issues “Historic” Arrest Warrant Against Syrian President Assad

The Syrian civil war broke out in 2011 after President Assad cracked down on peaceful demonstrations. (File)

Paris, France:

France has issued an international arrest warrant for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is accused of crimes against humanity and complicity in war crimes over a 2013 chemical attack, plaintiffs in the lawsuit said Wednesday. It was announced on .

More than 1,400 people were suffocated to death near Damascus in August 2013 in a sarin gas attack, one of the many horrors of a conflict that has lasted more than a decade.

The group that filed the complaint welcomed the move, saying it was the first time a sitting head of state had been the subject of an arrest warrant in another country for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Three other international warrants were also issued for the arrest of Assad’s brother Maher (de facto commander of the Syrian army’s elite 4th division) and two generals. The Paris court’s crime against humanity section has been investigating the chemical attack since 2021.

Based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, France can prosecute suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

A judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the issuance of four warrants after examining judges from the crimes against humanity section of the Paris court.

“Historic moment”

The investigation follows a complaint filed by the NGO Syrian Center for Freedom of Media and Expression (SCM), the legal group Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), and the Syria Archive, an organization that documents human rights violations in Syria. It was done.

“This is a major development,” SCM President Mazen Darwish said of Assad’s arrest warrant.

“Independent jurisdictions 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. Ta.

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.

Steve Costas, of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said: “This is a historic moment. This case reminds France of the principle that there is no impunity for the most serious international crimes, even at the highest level. “We have an opportunity to establish ourselves,” he said. In a statement.

‘Chain of command’

A person close to the investigation said the arrest warrant was the result of “painstaking work” by investigators from France’s OCLCH specialist unit, which tracks international crimes.

The goal was to “move it as high up the chain of command as possible,” the official said.

“You could go to the pilot of the helicopter that dropped the bomb and say, ‘I was just carrying out orders.’ The further back you go, the more responsibility you have.”

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.

On Thursday, the International Court of Justice is scheduled to rule on a case brought against Syria for torturing tens of thousands of its own citizens.

The first international civil war lawsuit, brought by Canada and the Netherlands, aims to force the ICJ to order the Syrian government to end what the plaintiffs say is a “widespread” system of torture.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who supported Assad with military intervention in the conflict in 2015, was the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant in March for war crimes in Ukraine.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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