Ali Mamlouk, the head of the Assad regime’s security services

A French court has convicted senior officials of the Assad regime of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The three men — Ali Mamlouk, head of the regime’s secret services; Jamil Hassan, head of the Air Force intelligence unit until 2019; and Abdel Salam Mahmoud, intelligence director at the Mezzeh detention center in southern Damascus — were sentenced to life imprisonment on Friday. They were found culpable amid the killings of tens of thousands of detainees through execution, torture, or inhumane prison conditions.

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The judges ordered that international arrest warrants against the three officials should remain in force.

Mamlouk, 78, Hassan, 72, and Mahmoud, in his early 60s, were specifically charged with complicity in the arrest, torture, and death of two French-Syrian nationals: student Patrick Dabbagh, 20, and his father, Mazzen, 48.

Patrick Dabbagh was in the second year of his arts and humanities degree at Damascus University when he was seized at his home in November 2013. Mazzen Dabbagh, a senior education adviser at the French Lycée in Damascus, was arrested the following day.

They were taken to the detention centre at Mezzeh military airport, run by the Air Force intelligence service, where thousands of prisoners were slain.

In 2018, relatives were informed that both men were death, but were not given any cause or allowed to recover the bodies.

The judges of France’s special war crimes tribunal said, after a 7-year investigation, that it was “sufficiently established” that the two men, “like thousands of detainees of the air force intelligence, suffered torture of such intensity that they died”.

The public prosecutor told the court of the Dabbaghs’ deaths as “part of a context in which tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Syrians can identify”. The defendants, like Bashar al-Assad, were “the architects of this system”.

The case was brought by the International Federation for Human Rights; the Human Rights League of France; and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. It was tried under the principle of universal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.

War crimes trials of Syrians have also taken place in the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden.

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