France has taken a significant step in holding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for alleged complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Paris court’s unit focusing on crimes against humanity has issued an international arrest warrant for Assad in connection with chemical attacks in 2013 that killed over 1,400 people near Damascus, according to a judicial source and the plaintiffs involved in the case.
The warrant also extends to Assad’s brother, Maher, who serves as the de facto chief of a Syrian elite military unit, as well as two armed forces generals. The investigation into the chemical attacks has been ongoing since 2021, following a legal complaint filed by the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), and the Syrian Archive—a body documenting human rights violations in Syria.
France, asserting worldwide jurisdiction for alleged war crimes, considers Assad complicit in the chemical attacks blamed on the regime by the opposition. The SCM president, Mazen Darwish, hailed the warrant as a “huge development,” emphasizing that an independent jurisdiction recognizes Assad’s responsibility for the chemical attack.
The case against Assad is supported by first-hand witness accounts and a thorough analysis of the Syrian military chain of command, according to Darwish. In 2013, activists shared amateur videos on YouTube depicting the aftermath of the attack, eliciting global condemnation. A subsequent United Nations report confirmed the use of sarin gas and led to Syria’s agreement to join the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to relinquish chemical weapons.
While the Syrian government has consistently denied the allegations, the OPCW has attributed a series of chemical attacks to Damascus during the civil war. The conflict, which erupted in 2011 following Assad’s suppression of peaceful demonstrations, has resulted in over half a million deaths and the displacement of half of Syria’s pre-war population.
Sources By Agencies