Swiss authorities investigate Bashar Al-Assad’s uncle for war crimes

Geneva, 25th September 2017: Former Syrian Vice President Rifaat Al-Assad is being investigated for war crimes by the Swiss authorities, following a criminal complaint in 2013 by SRT grantee TRIAL International.

The uncle of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, Rifaat Al-Assad was in command of the Defense Brigades (the country’s elite commando troops) in the 1980s. Under his leadership, the Brigades are suspected of participating in the massacres of several thousand people at Tadmor prison and in the town of Hama. No one has been prosecuted for their alleged crimes, which included executions, torture, rape, and looting. Rifaat Al-Assad, in exile since 1984, has travelled freely for years and accumulated a large personal fortune in Europe.

Four years after its submission, the case is with the Office of the Swiss Attorney General (OAG); however TRIAL is concerned it is now at a stalemate, despite the significant amount of evidence provided. The complainants’ lawyers have publicly challenged the OAG on behalf of their clients, all of whom are victims of abuse by the Syrian regime. They allege ‘grave shortcomings’ in the case’s procedure, including ‘cancellation of hearings, the refusal to arrest or hear the suspect […] and even attempts to bury the case altogether’.

Benedict de Moerloose, the lawyer in charge of the investigation at TRIAL, said, ‘We have accumulated damning evidence showing Rifaat Al-Assad’s responsibility in the massacres of Tadmor and Hama. The evidence also points at the unbounded brutality of his troops and his wish to purely and simply root out the opposition’.

Philip Grant, TRIAL’s director, said, ‘The sluggishness of the OAG goes against Switzerland’s international commitments – an irony given it is the depositary of the Geneva Convention. Besides, it sends a dangerous message to today’s belligerents in Syria. It must be absolutely clear to them that they are not beyond the reach of justice.’

Full story from TRIAL’s website:

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