French justice held accountable for chemical attacks perpetrated against Syrians in 2013

Three nongovernmental organisations have filed a complaint in a Paris court against chemical attacks committed in 2013 in Syria. According to the US, they caused the deaths of more than 1,400 people

French justice held accountable for chemical attacks perpetrated against Syrians in 2013

A complaint of “crimes against humanity” and “war crimes” against the chemical attacks carried out in Syria in 2013 and attributed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad has been filed in a court in Paris, it was announced on Tuesday, 2 March.

Citing the “extraterritorial jurisdiction” of French justice, the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) and the Syrian Archive filed the complaint on Monday with the civil party constitution so that an investigating judge could investigate the August 2013 sarin gas attacks in the town of Douma and Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.

More than 1,400 people were killed in those attacks, according to the US.

Determine the responsibility of the leaders

The complaint, based on numerous testimonies and documentary evidence, including photographs and videos, should allow “the responsibility of those who ordered and carried out the attacks to be determined”, the NGO said, stressing that they had conducted an “analysis”. of the Syrian military command.

According to Hadi al-Khatib, director of Syrian Archive, quoted in the press release, the Syrian government, which “has not been transparent about its production, use and storage of chemical weapons”, “must be held accountable”.

“In addition to investigating and prosecuting these crimes when they have jurisdiction, states should cooperate to set up a special international tribunal to try them”, –  said Mazen Darwish, director of SCM.

In October 2020, the three NGOs had already filed a complaint with the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office regarding the facts of 2013, as well as the April 2017 sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun, between Damascus and Aleppo.

“We are asking the French investigating judge to conduct a coordinated investigation with the German Federal Prosecutor”, –  said Steve Costas, a lawyer member of OSJI, who is also quoted in the statement.

After the 2013 attacks, the Syrian regime pledged to eliminate its stockpiles of chemical weapons.

But according to an OSJI and Syrian Archive report published in October 2020, Syria has a “still robust” chemical weapons programme, the Syrian authorities are using “tricks” to deceive the Organisation for the Prohibition of Weapons Chemicals (OPCW), the body believes. dismantle Syria’s chemical arsenal.

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