Three senior Syrian intelligence officials have been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Paris Criminal Chamber also ordered the arrest warrants to be maintained.

The men are accused of being responsible for the deaths of two French citizens in Syria. The three accused who were tried in absentia are Ali Mamluk, Jamil Hassan and Abdel Salam Mahmud. Mamluk was director of the Syrian National Security Office. He was considered a close confidant and important advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Until a few years ago, Hassan was head of the Syrian air force intelligence service. According to reports from Syrian victims, hundreds of suspected opponents of Assad were tortured and murdered during his time in office. Salam Mahmud, in turn, headed the air force intelligence investigation department at an important military airport near Damascus.

A judgment with significance

Specifically, the case revolved around two French-Syrian citizens who, according to the public prosecutor’s office, were arrested by air force intelligence in Damascus at the beginning of November 2013. Death certificates were given to relatives in August 2018. Accordingly, the men died in 2014 and 2017 without their relatives seeing the bodies.

According to witness statements, the two men were taken to an airport in Damascus, where thousands of opposition members were said to have been detained, tortured and killed.

It was the first trial in which such high-ranking representatives of the Syrian regime were convicted of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, said lawyer ClĂ©mence Bectarte, who represented several co-plaintiffs in the case, according to the newspaper “Le Figaro”. This is a verdict that is significant for hundreds of thousands of Syrians who are still waiting for justice, she said.