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Sunday May 19, 2024

Switzerland to try Assad’s uncle for crimes against humanity

He returned to Syria in 2021, escaping jail in France where he was found guilty of acquiring millions of euros of property using funds diverted from the Syrian state

By Reuters
March 13, 2024
A member of the Alawite community pastes on a wall, pictures of Syrian opposition leader Rifaat al-Assad (R) and his son Ribal in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. — AFP/File
A member of the Alawite community pastes on a wall, pictures of Syrian opposition leader Rifaat al-Assad (R) and his son Ribal in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. — AFP/File

GENEVA: Switzerland’s Attorney General’s Office said on Tuesday that it would put an uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity dating back to his time as a military commander in 1982.

The office said in a statement that Rifaat al-Assad, 86, had been charged with “ordering homicides, acts of torture, cruel treatments and illegal detentions” in February 1982 when he was in charge of troops in the western city of Hama.

Known to critics as the “Butcher of Hama” for crushing an insurrection in the city, Assad, a former vice president of the country, commanded troops accused of killing thousands of people to quell an Islamist uprising.

Assad, who was not immediately available for comment, has denied responsibility for the Hama deaths. His lawyers said in a statement on Tuesday: “Mr. Al-Assad has always denied any involvement in the acts of which he is accused in these proceedings.”

According to the Swiss prosecutors’ indictment, the conflict between Syrian armed forces and their Islamist opponents caused between 3,000 and 60,000 deaths in Hama. Most of these deaths were civilians.

Rifaat al-Assad lived in exile, mostly in France, from the mid-1980s, after being accused of trying to topple his brother, then-President Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father.

He returned to Syria in 2021, escaping jail in France where he was found guilty of acquiring millions of euros of property using funds diverted from the Syrian state.