Assad regime’s head of State security Ali Mamlouk (File)

French prosecutors have issued international arrest warrants for three top Assad regime officials over war crimes since Syria’s uprising began in March 2011.

The prosecutors named Bashar al-Assad’s security chief Ali Mamlouk; head of Air Force Intelligence Jamil Hassan, who reportedly oversaw the killing of thousands of detainees and already faces a German warrant; and senior Air Force Intelligence official Abdel Salam Mahmoud, who heads the detention facility at Mezzeh military airport in Damascus.

Charges include collusion in torture, forced disappearances, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The three defendants may be tried in absentia.

The warrants were spurred by the arrest in November 2013 and disappearances of two French-Syrian nationals, prominent activist Mazen Dabbagh and his son Patrick.

The Dabbagh family’s attorneys say documents indicate Patrick died in custody in January 2014 and Mazen in November 2017.

Obeida Dabbagh, Mazen’s brother and Patrick’s uncle, said, “This is a first victory and I hope the beginning of a new era of justice and accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Syria.”

Lawyers Clemence Bectarte and Patrick Baudouin echoed, “The international arrest warrants demonstrate that the wall of impunity surrounding Syrian officials at the highest level can indeed be broken.”

Assad regime officials have escaped prosecution to date because Syria is not a signatory of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and because Russia and China have vetoed UN attempts for an ICC special tribunal for Syria.