The Court of Cassation prevents the judgment of an alleged Syrian torturer

Will France be the refuge in Europe for Syrian war criminals? Will we see executioners and victims cross paths in the streets of Paris without the latter being able to initiate any prosecution whatsoever against those who have massacred their families? In any case, this is the meaning of the judgment rendered by the criminal chamber of the Court of Cassation on November 24. In essence, the judges ruled that the French courts were incompetent to prosecute Syrians living in France for crimes against humanity committed in their country of origin, on the grounds that Syrian law does not specifically sanction crimes against it. ‘humanity.

This judgment concerns the first case of indictment in France in the name of universal jurisdiction in matters of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It targeted a Syrian named Abdulhamid C., arrested in the Paris region and indicted in February 2019 for “complicity in crimes against humanity”. A member of State Security, he was arrested as part of a joint investigation in France and Germany into what has been called the “Caesar file”. In 2013, a former Syrian military police photographer, known by the pseudonym “Caesar”, fled his country with 55,000 photographs of bodies tortured, starved and tortured in the prisons of the Assad regime.

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An investigation was opened in France in 2015 after the transmission of the “César file” by the then foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, to the crimes against humanity division of the Paris judicial tribunal. In Germany, it led to the trial of two former Syrian military intelligence agents, also known as “branch 215” or “branch Al-Khatib”, in the court of Koblenz: the first is an officer, Anwar Raslan, the second, Eyad Al-Gharib, a subordinate. Al-Gharib was found guilty of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity and sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Raslan awaits judgment in the next few days.

Syrian defendant Eyad Al-Gharib arrives to hear his verdict in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany, February 24, 2021.

“Four locks”

In France, on the other hand, justice is trampling. The indictment of Abdulhamid C., confirmed by the investigating chamber in January, was therefore annulled by the judgment of the judges of cassation. The 32-year-old man, who was on bail after a year in detention, is now fully free. Entering France illegally in 2015, he obtained refugee status in 2018. He is suspected of having, on behalf of State Security, identified and arrested demonstrators to send them to the detention centers of the ” Al-Khatib branch ”.

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The Court of Cassation prevents the judgment of an alleged Syrian torturer

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