The Paris Court of Appeal Rejects Functional Immunity of Former Syrian Central Bank Governor Adib Mayaleh

Paris, 6 June 2024 – In a ruling handed down yesterday, the Paris Court of Appeal has confirmed the inapplicability of functional immunities in the case of international crimes. The Court refused to grant the immunity claimed by Adib Mayaleh, who is under investigation for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes.

We welcome this landmark decision. By endorsing the arguments put forward by our organizations, the Paris Court of Appeal has acknowledged the evolution of international customary law,” says Clémence Bectarte, lawyer for the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), civil parties to the proceedings. “This is a strong signal: functional immunity can no longer be invoked to obstruct the fight against impunity for international crimes, considered to be the gravest of all crimes.”

The Paris Court of Appeal held that “these international crimes cannot be covered by the principle of immunity and allow impunity for their perpetrators.”

With this ruling, the Paris Court of Appeal endorses the position of the War crimes unit of the Paris Judicial Court, whose investigating judges have already issued ten arrest warrants against senior Syrian officials, on the grounds that functional immunities cannot hinder the prosecution of international crimes.

The Paris Criminal Court has adopted the same reasoning in its ruling of 24 May 2024, sentencing Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan and Abdel Salam Mahmoud to life imprisonment for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes.

This decision is the result of a long legal battle waged by our organisations and by Syrian victims to ensure that those allegedly responsible for international crimes cannot escape justice under the pretext of immunity,” explains Mazen Darwish, General Director of SCM, a civil party to the proceedings. “This is essential to enable victims, and particularly Syrian victims, to have hope of obtaining justice before the only jurisdictions available to date: those of third countries.”

Adib Mayaleh, Franco-Syrian citizen and former governor of the Syrian Central Bank, was indicted on 20 December 2022 for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes, laundering the proceeds of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and participation in a group formed or an agreement established with a view to committing crimes against humanity.

A preliminary investigation was opened against him on 8 December 2016, and he was arrested on French territory on 16 December 2022. He has been placed under the status of assisted witness in May 2024.

Adib Mayaleh now has five days to appeal this decision before the French Supreme Court.