France Issues Arrest Warrants for Syrian President, 3 Generals Alleging Involvement in War Crimes


French judicial authorities issued international arrest warrants for Syrian President Bashar Assad, his brother and two army generals for alleged complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity, lawyers for Syrian victims said Wednesday. They include a 2013 chemical attack on rebel-held Damascus suburbs. 

A victim of the attack welcomed the move as a reminder of the horrors of Syria’s civil war, and urged countries where Assad might travel to arrest him. While he is unlikely to face trial in France, international warrants for a serving world leader are very rare and send a strong message about Assad’s leadership at a time when some countries have welcomed him back into the diplomatic fold. 

In addition to President Assad, the arrest warrants were issued for his brother, Maher Assad, the commander of the 4th Armored Division, and two Syrian army generals, Ghassan Abbas and Bassam al-Hassan, the lawyers said. 

More than 1,000 people were killed and thousands were injured in the August 2013 attacks on Douma and Eastern Ghouta. The investigation into the two chemical weapons attacks has been conducted under universal jurisdiction in France by a special unit of the Paris Judicial Court. It was opened in 2021 in response to a criminal complaint by the survivors and filed by the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. 

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