Article France: High Court Blocks Charges Against Syrian Man Accused of Complicity in Crimes Against Humanity

On November 24, 2021, the Cour de cassation, France’s highest jurisdiction for civil and criminal matters, rendered a decision blocking charges against a Syrian man who had been accused of being an accomplice to crimes against humanity committed by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

This case centered on Abdulhamid C., a former member of the Syrian intelligence services, who was arrested in France in February 2019 after a joint investigation by French and German authorities and charged for his alleged participation in crimes against humanity committed between March 2011 and August 2013. Abdulhamid C., who claims he is innocent, allegedly aided in the arrest and torture of opponents to the Assad regime.

In its decision of November 24, 2021, the Cour de cassation ruled that charges against the defendant could not be pursued. The court based its ruling on article 689-11 of the French Code of Criminal Procedure. Article 689-11 was introduced in the Code of Criminal Procedure in a 2010 law that sought to adapt French criminal law to the creation of the International Criminal Court. Article 689-11 provides that persons who participated in genocide, committed crimes against humanity, or committed war crimes in another country can be prosecuted in France if they reside in France and no other national or international jurisdiction has requested their extradition. An additional requirement, which has remained controversial since the law’s adoption, is that suspects can be charged for crimes against humanity or war crimes only if these offenses are punishable in the country where they were committed or if that country is a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This provision was the principal basis of the Cour de cassation’s ruling, as Syria has not ratified the Rome Statute, nor does Syrian law recognize crimes against humanity.

This case appears to be the first time that article 689-11 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been applied. But while critics argue that the Cour de cassation’s ruling was no surprise given the legislation’s strict requirements, many fear that it sends out a “message of impunity” to perpetrators of crimes against humanity, as perpetrators often act within the limits of their own countries’ legislation. On September 22, 2021, an amendment to a bill on judicial reform was submitted in the French parliament that would have removed both the requirement of “double incrimination” (the requirement that the crime being prosecuted also be recognized as a crime in the country in which it was committed) and the requirement that the suspect be a resident of France for prosecutions for crimes against humanity to proceed. This amendment was defeated, however, as the French government fears that these changes would negatively affect France’s diplomatic relations by opening the floodgates of charges for crimes against humanity against foreign nationals, including leaders of allied countries.

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France: High Court Blocks Charges Against Syrian Man Accused of Complicity in Crimes Against Humanity
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Chicago citation style:

France: High Court Blocks Charges Against Syrian Man Accused of Complicity in Crimes Against Humanity. 2021. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2021-12-28/france-high-court-blocks-charges-against-syrian-man-accused-of-complicity-in-crimes-against-humanity/.

APA citation style:

(2021) France: High Court Blocks Charges Against Syrian Man Accused of Complicity in Crimes Against Humanity. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2021-12-28/france-high-court-blocks-charges-against-syrian-man-accused-of-complicity-in-crimes-against-humanity/.

MLA citation style:

France: High Court Blocks Charges Against Syrian Man Accused of Complicity in Crimes Against Humanity. 2021. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2021-12-28/france-high-court-blocks-charges-against-syrian-man-accused-of-complicity-in-crimes-against-humanity/>.

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