In European 1st, French court sentences 3 Syrian officials to life in absentia for war crimes

A Paris court has sentenced three high-ranking Syrian officials in absentia to life in prison for complicity in war crimes, in a landmark case against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the first such case in Europe.

The trial focused on the officials’ role in the alleged 2013 arrest in Damascus of Mazen Dabbagh, a Franco-Syrian father, and his son Patrick, and their subsequent torture and killing. The four-day trial featured harrowing testimonies from survivors and searing accounts from Mazen’s brother.

Though Friday’s verdict is cathartic for plaintiffs, France and Syria do not have an extradition treaty, making the outcome largely symbolic. International arrest warrants for the three former Syrian intelligence officials — Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud — have been issued since 2018 to no avail.

They are the most senior Syrian officials to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country’s civil war.

The court proceedings come as Assad has started to shed his longtime status as a pariah that stemmed from the violence unleashed on his opponents. Human rights groups involved in the case hope it will refocus attention on alleged atrocities.

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