French court sentences three officials close to Bashar al-Assad to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity

Paris, 27 May 2024 – The Paris Criminal Court has found three high-ranking Syrian officials guilty of complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against two French-Syrians, Patrick and Mazzen Dabbagh.

Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan and Abdel Salam Mahmoud have been sentenced to life imprisonment for complicity in imprisonment, torture, enforced disappearance and murder constituting crimes against humanity – as well as for confiscation of property, qualified as war crimes.

“My family and I are extremely happy with this verdict, for which we have been hoping and working so hard. Of course, it won’t bring Patrick and Mazzen back, but this court decision is a huge relief”, says Obeida Dabbagh, brother of Mazzen Dabbagh and uncle of Patrick Dabbagh, both of whom were abducted, tortured and murdered by the Syrian air force intelligence services.

After four days of hearings, during which several experts and survivors of the Mezzeh detention centre, where Patrick and Mazzen Dabbagh were incarcerated, testified, as well as the civil parties Obeida and Hanane Dabbagh and Mazen Darwish in his capacity of General Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), the Paris Criminal Court handed down its verdict.

“This condemnation is commensurate with the crimes committed against Patrick and Mazzen Dabbagh but also against so many other Syrians. The fight against impunity for crimes committed by the Syrian regime and by all parties to this conflict continues,” said Mazen Darwish, General Director of SCM and Secretary General of FIDH.

“This trial has highlighted the incredible determination and courage of Syrians, and particularly Obeida and Hanane Dabbagh, in their relentless fight against impunity for the crimes committed by the regime,” said Clémence Bectarte, lawyer for the Dabbagh family, FIDH and SCM, civil parties. “This is obviously a victory for Syrians, for human rights defenders, for those who demand justice and, above all, for the dignity of victims. They deserve justice, and this evening they got it.”

This trial was the first in France relating to crimes committed by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. They are also the most senior Syrian officials ever convicted for these crimes.

“This is a historic trial that condemns the barbarity of the Syrian regime. This verdict is an important step forward for international justice and the fight against impunity,” said Patrick Baudouin, lawyer for the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH), for FIDH, and Honorary President of the FIDH, whose term as head of the LDH ended last weekend.

Mazzen and Patrick Dabbagh were arrested and taken to the Mezzeh military airport detention centre in Damascus, known for its inhumane detention conditions and brutal torture sessions. They were never seen alive again. It was only in July 2018, when death certificates were issued by the Syrian authorities, that the Dabbagh family was inf