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Swiss Prosecutors Refer Rifaat al-Assad to Court for War Crimes Charges

Rifaat al-Assad stands accused of "murder, torture, cruel treatment, and unlawful arrests in Syria in February 1982", according to Enab Baladi.
Swiss Prosecutors Refer Rifaat al-Assad to Court for War Crimes Charges

Swiss prosecutors have announced their decision to bring Rifaat al-Assad, the uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to court on charges of war crimes.

According to the Swiss Federal Council, as stated on its official website on Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office has referred Rifaat al-Assad to the Federal Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is asserted that Rifaat stands accused of “murder, torture, cruel treatment, and unlawful arrests in Syria in February 1982”, during his tenure as commander of the Defense Brigades and operations in Hama. These accusations stem from the armed conflict and the systematic, widespread assault on the residents of Hama.

An international arrest warrant for Rifaat al-Assad was issued by the Swiss judiciary last August, relating to his involvement in the Hama events during the 1980s.

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The initiation of criminal proceedings against Rifaat al-Assad dates back to December 2013, following a complaint filed by the NGO Trial International regarding alleged war crimes committed under his command in Hama.

These criminal proceedings are founded on the principle of universal jurisdiction, with war crimes not subject to statutory limitations. Numerous victims have lodged civil complaints within the criminal proceedings overseen by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

According to the Swiss Federal Council, police surveillance confirmed the presence of the accused on Swiss territory at the commencement of the investigation.

It is noteworthy that Rifaat al-Assad returned to Syria in October 2021, ending an absence of over 30 years. His return was reportedly aimed at evading potential imprisonment in France following a court ruling, along with the confiscation of his assets in Spain, as reported by Al-Watan.

“Bashar al-Assad has pardoned all of Rifaat al-Assad’s actions, permitting his return to Syria as an ordinary citizen without any anticipated political or social role,” an unnamed source stated to Al-Watan.

In June 2020, the French judiciary sentenced Rifaat al-Assad to four years in prison and seized all his assets in France on charges of money laundering and embezzlement from the state treasury. Despite an appeal filed by Rifaat al-Assad’s lawyers, the French Court of Cassation upheld the four-year prison sentence, citing charges of illegal gains.

Syrians allege that Rifaat al-Assad misappropriated substantial sums from the Central Bank of Syria before being exiled to France by his brother Hafez al-Assad in the 1980s, following a power struggle and a failed coup attempt against Hafez al-Assad.

During his residency in Europe with his four wives and 16 children, Rifaat al-Assad acquired a significant real estate portfolio, prompting legal actions not only in France and Switzerland but also in other European countries including Britain and Spain.


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.

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