France appeals court upholds intl arrest warrant for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

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The Paris appeals court ruled on Wednesday that an international arrest warrant for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued by France for alleged complicity in war crimes during Syria’s civil war is valid and remains in place.

Jeanne Sulzer and Clemence Witt, lawyers who represented the plaintiffs, and non-governmental organizations behind the complaint hailed the decision as a historic judgment.

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In May, French anti-terrorism prosecutors asked the Paris appeals court to rule on lifting the arrest warrant for Assad, saying he has absolute immunity as a serving head of state.

“It’s the first time that a national court has recognized that the personal immunity of a serving head of state is not absolute,” the lawyers said in a statement.

French judicial authorities issued international arrest warrants last November for al-Assad; his brother Maher al-Assad, the commander of the 4th Armored Division; and two Syrian generals, Ghassan Abbas and Bassam al-Hassan, for alleged complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

They include a 2013 chemical attack on then opposition-held Damascus suburbs.

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