Lawyer Abdel Nasser Hoshan informed Baladi News that the issuance of a French arrest warrant against Bashar al-Assad and several individuals marks a unique development in French jurisprudence, which traditionally upholds immunity for heads of state. He emphasized that this represents an unprecedented event within the French legal system.
Hoshan clarified that the timing of the memorandum coincided with a French response to Bashar al-Assad’s resurgence in Arab and regional spheres. However, he noted that the practical application of the memorandum faces limitations at the international level and within Interpol, present in countries Assad may visit. Consequently, Hoshan views the memorandum more as a political message than a strictly legal measure.
Lawyer Tarek Hokan, Director of the Strategic Litigation Project at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, elaborated on the considerations underpinning the French judiciary’s decision. He cited the gravity of the crime and its impact, both on Syrians and humanity at large. The use of chemical weapons, forbidden by international conventions, was a central factor. Additionally, the scale of victims and the unique nature of the Syrian regime’s composition were instrumental in the decision, reflecting the belief that such a directive could only originate from the highest authority.
Hokan underscored the Syrian Center’s involvement from the outset of the attacks. Lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, kidnapped shortly thereafter, played a pivotal role in documenting the attack and its aftermath. In March 2020, the Syrian Center filed a complaint with the French judiciary on behalf of a group of victims, leveraging the principle of extraterritorial jurisdiction. This complaint included Zaitouneh’s findings, witness testimonies, analyses, documentation, photos, and videos. The Office for War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity joined the investigation later, representing civilian parties, non-Syrian organizations, and victims from the Association of Victims of Chemical Use in Syria.
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression is concurrently pursuing two complaints related to chemical weapons, filed with prosecutors in Germany and Sweden. The French courts, through the principle of extraterritorial jurisdiction, have the authority to investigate and prosecute international atrocity crimes committed on foreign soil under specific circumstances.
In response, Russia has strongly criticized the French judiciary’s move to arrest Bashar al-Assad. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced the decision, alleging bias within the “Western judicial system.” Lavrov asserted that this bias has been demonstrated on numerous occasions, both domestically and internationally. His comments were made in reference to the French memorandum targeting Bashar al-Assad, whom Lavrov referred to as a “terrorist,” along with his brother Maher and two associates.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.