Paris Court Orders Life Terms for Three Syrian Security Officials in War Crimes Case

Sat May 25 2024
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PARIS, France: A Paris court on Friday ordered life sentences for three top Syrian security officials for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes in a landmark case.

It is the first time since 2011 that a trial has been held in France over abuses committed during the Syrian civil war.

Defendant – Ali Mamlouk, former head of the National Security Agency; Jamil Hassan, former Director of Air Force Intelligence; and Abdel Salam Mahmoud, the former head of investigations – all were absent, but there are international warrants for their arrest.

Many in the court galleries rose to applaud after the verdict was announced.

“It’s a verdict that will resonate for hundreds of thousands of Syrians who are still waiting for justice,” said Clemence Bectarte, a lawyer for some of the victims in the case.

Three officials are believed to be in Syria. Mamlouk became the main adviser to the president of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad.

They were accused of involvement in the deaths of two French-Syrian men, Mazzen Dabbagh and his son Patrick, who were arrested in Damascus in 2013 and never seen again. They were declared dead in 2018.

At the time of his arrest, Patrick Dabbagh was a 20-year-old student of arts and humanities at Damascus University. His father was the chief educational adviser at a French school in Damascus.

Before the trial, investigating judges said it was “sufficiently proven” that the two men “like thousands of Air Force intelligence detainees suffered torture of such intensity that they died”.

Prosecutors noted during the trial that there had been systematic and widespread abuses in Syria since 2011, and said the fate of the Dabbaghs could have befallen tens of thousands of Syrians.

Several experts and witnesses who spent time in Syrian prisons testified in the court.

Patrick Baudouin, a lawyer for the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), said the trial and the verdict were “a signal to our leaders, European leaders, that they must not normalize relations with Bashar Al-Assad at any cost”.

The Syrian war since 2011 has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions and devastated the Syrian economy and infrastructure.

Trials of abuses in Syria have taken place elsewhere in Europe, notably in Germany. In these cases, the prosecuted people had lower ranks and were present at the hearing.

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