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French judiciary: No immunity for Assad’s chemical crimes

Credit: Alfonso de Tomas/Shutterstock

Today, November 15, 2023, French authorities issued arrest warrants against the head of the Syrian regime Bashar Assad, his brother Maher, and two of their aides, on charges of using chemical weapons against civilians in Douma and Eastern Ghouta in Augusrt 2013, resulting in the deaths of over 1000 people. Investigating judges affirmed that in crimes of this nature, no immunity is granted.

The arrest warrants were issued on charges of complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes. This action followed a criminal investigation conducted by a specialized unit in Paris regarding chemical attacks in 2013.

The legal document accompanying the complaint includes a comprehensive analysis of the Syrian military leadership’s chain of command and the chemical weapons program

The investigation was initiated based on a complaint filed by Syrian victims in March 2021, supported by the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) in 2021. The complaint received backing from the Syrian Archive, the Open Society Justice Initiative, and the Civil Rights Defenders organization, which joined the investigation as civil parties. Additionally, members of the Association of Victims of Chemical Weapons (AVCW) provided testimonies and documented evidence. The legal document accompanying the complaint includes a comprehensive analysis of the Syrian military leadership’s chain of command and the chemical weapons program.

The investigation in France is conducted under laws of extraterritorial jurisdiction, granting prosecuting authorities and national courts the authority to investigate and prosecute international crimes committed abroad

This case is part of a broader legal action in France, Germany, and Sweden, grounded in other chemical attacks in Syria, demanding accountability for the Syrian regime officials.

The decision to issue arrest warrants symbolizes the significant impact left by the chemical attacks in Eastern Ghouta in 2013, reaffirming the international community’s commitment to zero tolerance for war crimes. The investigation in France is conducted under laws of extraterritorial jurisdiction, granting prosecuting authorities and national courts the authority to investigate and prosecute international crimes committed abroad.

For more on the French Arrest Warrants for Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria, please click here.

Almoutassim Al Kilani
Almoutassim Al Kilani
Human rights and international criminal law legal expert with experience in legal documentation, currently based in Paris, France.

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