France investigators call for trial of 3 Syria regime officials over killing of father and son
Criminal investigators in France have called for three Syrian regime officials to be put on trial over the disappearance of two French-Syrian nationals who were arrested and died in detention.
Mazzan Dabbagh, the Chief Education Advisor at the French School in Damascus, and his son, Patrick Dabbagh, a student of literature and social science in the Syrian capital, were arrested by Air Force intelligence officers in 2013.
According to Mazzan’s brother-in-law — who was arrested at the same time, but freed two days later — the father and son were transferred to Damascus’s Al-Mezzeh prison, one of the many facilities notorious for torture in the vast prison network of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
Following their disappearance reported by relatives, French investigators then began working on the case in 2015. There was no contact made by the pair, and the Syrian regime did not disclose their status or location until it later revealed that Patrick Dabbagh had died on 21 January 2014, while his father died on 25 November 2017. The two likely succumbed under torture, as is commonly the case in detention under regime authorities.
The case, compiled by the French investigators, accuse Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan and Abdel Salam Mahmoud of complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Mamlouk was formerly the head of the Syrian Intelligence Services, taking over as Director of the National Security Office in 2012. Hassan was head of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Unit at the time of the Dabbagh father and son’s disappearance and Mahmoud was responsible for the investigation branch of that same Air Force unit. All of them are subject to international arrest warrants, and are to be judged for their crimes in absentia.
The move to call for a trial has been hailed by a number of organisations such as the Syrian Media Centre and the Human Rights League, which serve as civil plaintiffs in the case. The International Human Rights Federation (Fidh) has also expressed its support, stating that “This decision opens the possibility, for the first time in France, of a trial for three senior officials in the repressive Syrian regime.”