Crimes against humanity: three Syrian regime executives sentenced to life imprisonment in France

Three senior officials of the Syrian regime, tried in absentia in France for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes, were sentenced to life imprisonment on Friday May 24.

The Paris Assize Court also ordered the maintenance of the effects of the international arrest warrants targeting Ali Mamlouk, former head of the national security office, the highest intelligence body in Syria, Jamil Hassan, former director of the air force intelligence services, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud, former director of the investigation branch of these services.

Due to their position in the chain of command, the three men were found guilty of playing a role in the enforced disappearance and death of Mazzen Dabbagh and his son Patrick. These two Franco-Syrians were arrested in Damascus in 2013 and transferred to the detention center at Mazzeh airport, run by the feared air force intelligence services. They gave no further sign of life until they were declared dead in August 2018.

“The architects of this system”

But the investigations carried out by the crimes against humanity unit of the Paris judicial court made it possible to consider that it was “sufficiently established” that they had suffered torture and that they had died as a result.

Beyond their case, it is the massive and systematic nature of the abuses committed by the Syrian regime on its civilian population which animated the debates of this trial, unprecedented in the history of French justice. The facts of which Mazzen and Patrick Dabbagh were victims “are part of a context in which tens, even hundreds, of thousands of Syrians can recognize themselves”, underlined the attorney general in her requisitions.

She worked to demonstrate that the regime of Bashar Al-Assad was pursuing “a repressive state policy, implemented by the highest levels” of the hierarchy and “delivered locally in each governorate”. According to the representative of the public prosecutor’s office, the accused constituted, like Mr. Al-Assad, “the architects of this system” and should therefore be condemned for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes.