Three senior Syrian regime officials sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity

Three senior officials of the Syrian regime, tried in absentia in France for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes, were sentenced this Friday to life imprisonment.

The Paris Criminal Court also ordered that international arrest warrants remain in force for Ali Mamluk, former director of the National Security Office – the highest authority in Syria’s secret services -, Jamil Hassan, former director of the Air Force Secret Services, and Abdel Salam Mahmud, former director of the investigation branch of the same services.

This process, the first in France to judge the crimes of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, constitutes “a great step forward for the victims who legitimately thirst for justice”, highlighted the prosecutor in her arguments final statements, also noting that it was “a sign for all Syrian victims”.

The three men, who are probably still in Syria, were not present at the trial and were therefore tried in absentia, an option available in the French legal system. They also did not appoint any lawyer to defend them at the hearing.

Due to their position in the chain of command, they are suspected of having played a role in the forced disappearance and death of Mazzen Dabbagh and his son Patrick.

These two Franco-Syrian citizens were detained in Damascus in 2013 and transferred to the Mezzeh airport detention center, managed by the fearsome Air Force secret services. Nothing was heard from them again until they were declared dead in August 2018.

However, investigations carried out by the crimes against humanity unit of the Paris Judicial Court considered it “sufficiently proven” that they had been tortured and had died as a result.

In addition to his case, it was the massive and systematic nature of the abuses committed by the Syrian regime against its civilian population that drove the debates in this trial, the first of its kind in the history of Justice. French §a.

The acts of which Mazzen and Patrick Dabbagh were victims “are part of a context with which tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Syrians can identify”, according to the representative of the Public Ministry.

The prosecutor endeavored to demonstrate that the Assad regime practiced “a repressive state policy, carried out by the highest levels” of the hierarchy and “applied locally in each province”. Like Assad, the defendants were “the architects of this system”.

During the trial, which began on Tuesday, several experts and Syrian prison survivors took the stand to describe the Syrian political and prison system and recount the horrors suffered during incarceration.

At a hearing, photographs were shown of the César case, named after a former military police photographer who fled Syria in 2013 with 46,000 shocking photographs of tortured bodies.

“These are not crimes from the past that they are going to judge, they are crimes from the present”, lawyer Clémence Bectarte, who defends members of the two victims’ families and the Syrian Center for Social Communications, which was also a civil party in this case.

For thousands of Syrians, this trial represents “the hope” of finding “a space of justice, since the situation in Syria continues to be marked by total impunity”, he stressed.

For example, Ali Mamluk became a special advisor to the Syrian head of state, Bashar al-Assad.

It has “a value as an example for memory, against oblivion, but also for the present and the future”, added Patrick Baudouin, lawyer, together with Bectarte, at the International Federation of Human Rights.

If the convicts are detained, they can accept the sentence or file an appeal, which would lead to a new trial, in the first instance and this time in their presence.


Francesco Giganti

Journalist, social media, blogger and pop culture obsessive in newshubpro

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