within the hell of Assad's jails | EUROtoday

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In an unprecedented trial, the Paris Assize Court tried three senior Syrian officers this week for complicity in crimes in opposition to humanity and warfare crimes. This first main trial in opposition to the crimes of the Bashar al-Assad regime throughout the warfare was an actual perception into the Syrian torture system.

In the primary main trial in opposition to the crimes of the Bashar al-Assad regime throughout the warfare in Syria, life imprisonment was requested on Friday, May 24, in opposition to three senior officers of the Syrian regime. Bashar al-Assad's former quantity 2 and two different main officers had been tried in absentia earlier than the Paris Assize Court for complicity in crimes in opposition to humanity and warfare crimes, for having participated within the compelled disappearance then the dying of two Franco-Syrians in Damascus in 2013.

In this extraordinary trial, a number of survivors of Syrian jails wherein they had been overwhelmed, hung by their arms for hours and even electrocuted, recounted the torture they suffered. The legal professional normal labored, in her submissions, to show that the regime of Bashar al-Assad was pursuing “a repressive state policy, implemented by the highest levels” of the hierarchy and “declined locally in each governorate” and that the accused had been, like Bashar al-Assad, “the architects of this system”.

Absent from the trial, the accused – Ali Mamlouk, the previous head of the National Security Bureau, the very best intelligence physique in Syria, Jamil Hassan, the previous director of the military's intelligence providers air, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud, the previous head of the investigation department of those providers – had been judged by three skilled magistrates by default, or “in absentia”, that’s to say with out them being current or represented. The Attorney General requested that the results of the arrest warrants in opposition to them be maintained.

According to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), that is the trial of “the highest officials of the regime ever prosecuted since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in March 2011”.

Trials on the abuses of the Syrian regime have already taken place elsewhere in Europe, notably in Germany, however the individuals prosecuted had been of decrease rank. It can be the primary time {that a} still-serving Syrian official has been tried for alleged warfare crimes. Ali Mamlouk is, to at the present time, nonetheless a part of the Syrian regime as safety advisor to President Bashar al-Assad.

In Paris, three senior Syrian officials tried for crimes against humanity

In Paris, three senior Syrian officers tried for crimes in opposition to humanity © France24

Tortured to dying

The case issues the disappearance in Damascus in November 2013 and the dying of Mazzen Dabbagh, a Franco-Syrian then steering counselor on the French highschool in Damascus, and his son Patrick, a scholar on the school of letters and human sciences. The father and son had been arrested by officers claiming to be from the Syrian Air Force intelligence providers.

The two males had been transferred to Mezzeh airport, a detention middle deemed inhumane and denounced as one of many worst torture facilities of the regime, based on the brother-in-law of Mazzen Dabbagh, arrested concurrently them however launched two days later.

They by no means gave any signal of life once more.

It was not till July 2018, when dying certificates had been issued by the Syrian authorities, that the Dabbagh household was knowledgeable of the deaths of Patrick and Mazzen. According to those dying certificates, Patrick died on January 21, 2014 and Mazen, on November 25, 2017.

The investigations carried out by the crimes in opposition to humanity unit of the Paris judicial courtroom made it potential to think about that it was “sufficiently established” that the 2 victims “suffered, like thousands of detainees within the intelligence of the army of air, torture of such intensity that they died”.

The case was delivered to courtroom in October 2016 by Obeïda Dabbagh, brother and uncle of the victims and essential civil get together, alongside the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Human Rights League (LDH) and supported by the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). Obeïda Dabbagh claims to have been hampered for a very long time by the issue of acquiring info on the destiny of his brother and his nephew, however above all by the concern of endangering his family members in Syria by submitting a criticism in France.

Plunge into horror

Beats with iron bars on the soles of the toes, electrical shocks, sexual abuse: a number of Syrians, now refugees in France, took the stand one after the opposite to testify concerning the torture inflicted within the Mezzeh jail the place Patrick and Mazzen stayed.

Like Abdul Rahman, arrested twice by the Syrian intelligence providers, who delivers his story in an virtually inaudible voice. The first time in April 2011, the brokers tried to seek out out the whereabouts of his brother and his sister-in-law, a famend lawyer. “I suffered torture from morning to evening,” he says. “They threatened to pull out my nails and pull out my hair.”

Nasser, 40, spent three months in Mezzeh. Son and brother of opponents of the regime, he was arrested on May 9, 2011 and was locked up with greater than 100 individuals in a 40 m cell.2. “The next day or two, they started beating me, I lost my teeth,” he testifies.

He says he was questioned, weeks later, by one of many accused – Jamil Hassan, himself – who requested him the place his family members had been. “I replied: 'you're still asking me the same questions after two months when I don't know'.” Jamil Hassan then orders his brokers to care for him. “He literally told them: 'I want to hear her scream under torture'.”

“They put a rope around my hands, I was tied, suspended,” Nasser continues. “They left me hanging like that until the next day.” When we ask him to decrease his arms to take away his bonds, he can't do it. “My jailer forcibly lowered my arms, I had both shoulders dislocated,” says the witness, who confides that he was additionally electrocuted to the genitals.

During Wednesday's listening to, photographs from the case of “Caesar” – pseudonym of a former Syrian army police forensic photographer who fled Syria in 2013 with 55,000 warfare images – had been performed. These ten photographs exhibiting appalling scenes of tortured and emaciated our bodies served as proof.

Industrialization of torture

The information of which Mazzen and Patrick Dabbagh had been victims “are part of a context in which tens, even hundreds of thousands of Syrians can recognize themselves”, underlined the legal professional normal in her submissions on the final day of the trial.

The central level of this trial was the highlighting, nonetheless crude it might be, of the systematic and large nature of the abuses dedicated by the Syrian regime in opposition to its civilian inhabitants throughout the civil warfare in Syria. “This case is important for all Syrians,” stated lawyer and director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression Mazen Darwish, “because it concerns arbitrary detentions, torture (and) extrajudicial executions systemic” on the part of the regime.

“What we saw was the demonstration of the industrialization of torture and the desire to dehumanize the Syrian people,” explains Marie Schuster, a journalist at France 24 who attended the hearings. “During the trial, Clémence Bectarte, the civil get together's lawyer, cited responses given to households who requested for information of their incarcerated kids. They had been instructed: 'Forget your kids! Do them others! And should you can't do it, ship us your girls!'. This sentence completely illustrates this dehumanization and contempt for the regime,” says the journalist.

For Obeïda Dabbagh, Patrick and Mazzen are now “the spokespersons for the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who suffered the same fate as them,” he declared before the Paris Assize Court. “I hope that the international community will one day be able to squarely attack the head of this regime.”

Bashar al-Assad still escapes international justice

Bashar al-Assad's Syria has never been held accountable for its torture, murders and war crimes before international justice, because it is not a member of the International Criminal Court. But its leaders could one day have to take action before European courts.

If they are found guilty, Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan and Abdel Salam Mahmoud will therefore be sentenced to life imprisonment in France. “International arrest warrants will be issued against them. They will obviously not be arrested but this will limit their movements, because they risk being arrested and prosecuted in any country which applies these warrants,” explains Marie Schuster. “Such a verdict would above all shed light on the atrocities of the Syrian regime,” she continues.

In this case, Bashar al-Assad is not named because he is protected by his diplomatic immunity as a serving head of state. “Waiting for the Syrian president's immunity to be lifted would have prolonged the legal proceedings indefinitely,” explains Marie Schuster. But this diplomatic immunity could be called into question in another trial.

The Paris Court of Appeal must confirm, on June 26, an arrest warrant issued in November 2023 against Bashar al-Assad, his brother and two other Syrian officials, accused of having used chemical weapons against civilians in Eastern Ghouta in 2013.

The Ghouta massacre resulted in the deaths of more than a thousand people, including French nationals.

©France 24

“What the victims are asking is not to forget, and not to legitimize this regime which continues to be torture,” explains Marie Schuster. With this trial, 4 instances in opposition to the Syrian regime have already ended up in French justice. “The aim of these trials is to put the brakes on the normalization of relations with Bashar al-Assad’s Syria,” explains the journalist.

Read additionallyA Frenchman takes authorized motion after the dying of his brother in a Syrian jail

For FIDH lawyer Patrick Baudouin, that is additionally an important message of the trial. “While certain states are normalizing their diplomatic relations with Bashar al-Assad, France must continue to firmly oppose any attempt at normalization,” he believes.

“There is both a legal dimension and a political dimension to this trial,” analyzes David Rigoulet-Roze, a researcher specializing within the Middle East and connected to the French Institute of Strategic Analysis. “There is obviously a legal dimension which allows recognition of what happened for the victims. But there is also a strong political dimension”

For this researcher related to IRIS, this trial instantly targets a regime, “or at least very high-ranking officials of this regime: General Ali Mamlouk was, at the time of the incriminated facts, at the top of the Syrian security system and the terrible repression that was carried out against the opponents; General Jamil Hassan was the head of the air force intelligence services, the most feared of all within the Syrian repression system and the brigadier; -General Abdel Salam Mahmoud was responsible within these services.”

Read additionallySyria: these authorized proceedings focusing on the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Europe

“The multiplication of this type of trial, in France but also in Europe, confirms the legal desire not to allow impunity to take hold and simultaneously reflects the continued refusal of any form of normalization with the Syrian regime,” continues the researcher. . For David Rigoulet-Roze, “France's positioning is consistent with its policy towards Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011. It confirms the fact that for Paris, there will be no normalization with the regime of Bashar al-Assad.”