French Court Confirms Arrest Warrant Against Syria’s Assad

Judges in Paris confirmed a French arrest warrant for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday for alleged crimes against humanity in connection with the 2013 chemical strikes, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

The Paris appeals court ruled that Assad might face charges in connection with the fatal chemical weapons attacks on Syrian soil in August 2013.

“This is a historical choice. Plaintiffs’ lawyers Clemence Bectarte, Jeanne Sulzer, and Clemence Witt stated that this is the first time a national court has recognized that a serving head of state does not have complete personal immunity for their activities.

Prosecutors from a team that specializes in investigating terrorist acts sought to overturn the order, claiming that protection for foreign heads of state should only be revoked for international cases, such as those before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

They did not intend to “question the existence of evidence demonstrating Bashar al-Assad’s complicity in the chemical attacks,” they stated.

France is thought to be the first country to issue an arrest warrant for a sitting foreign head of state.

The ruling was “great news” and “a new victory for the victims,” International Human Rights League (FIDH) lawyer Mazen Darwish said on X.

“There is no immunity in this type of crime,” she said.

The anti-terrorist prosecutors might yet appeal the decision to France’s highest court, the Court of Cassation.

The arrest warrant, issued in mid-November at the request of investigating magistrates specializing in so-called crimes against humanity, seeks to detain Assad for his role in the chain of command for the strikes on Adra and Douma on August 4-5, 2013, and East Ghouta on August 21.

The initial strike injured over 450 people, and American intelligence reports that over 1,000 people were killed with sarin nerve gas in East Ghouta, a suburb of Syria’s capital Damascus.

The warrants also target Assad’s brother Maher, who was then chief of the Syrian army’s fourth division, as well as two generals, Ghassan Abbas and Bassam al-Hassan.

The anti-terrorist prosecutors merely challenged the arrest warrant for Bashar al-Assad.

The inquiry by France’s OCLCH crimes against humanity unit is based on images, films, and maps provided by plaintiffs, as well as testimony from survivors and former military members.

Syria decided to join the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) shortly after the strikes and has refuted reports that it continues to use the weapons.

Its OPCW voting rights were terminated in 2021 following poison gas attacks on civilians in 2017.

The Syrian civil war began in 2011 with ruthless repression of anti-government rallies, leading to a deadly confrontation involving foreign forces and Islamist groups.

The war has killed over 500,000 people and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population.



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