Swiss court charges former Syria VP with war crimes

Swiss court

A Swiss court indicted Rifaat al-Assad on charges of historic war crimes and crimes against humanity on March 12th, according to AP.

The former Syrian vice president and uncle of its current dictator, President Bashar al-Assad, is accused of ordering torture and murder more than four decades ago.

Switzerland’s attorney general’s office claimed that Rifaat, 86, committed the crimes in February 1982, while commanding defence brigades that carried out an attack on the city of Hama. Amid a conflict between the Syrian military and opposition, security forces tortured and killed thousands to crush an uprising in the city.

Even if convicted, the accused is unlikely to serve time in Switzerland.

After a French court sentenced Rifaat to four years in prison for illegal use of Syrian state funds in 2022, his nephew allowed him back into Syria, ending over 30 years of exile in France.

Rifaat fled Syria in 1984 after a failed coup against his brother, then-dictator Hafez al-Assad.

Rifaat, insisted that his property empire spanning Spain, France, and Britain was established legitimately, with gifts from Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah, according to AFP.

The Swiss case was brought by human rights advocacy group, Trial International, under the principle of “universal jurisdiction,” which allows the prosecution of crimes outwith the country where the crimes took place.

READ: Detainees’ association claims Syrian regime levelled graves

Authorities determined that Rifaat was in Switzerland when the official probe was launched by investigators.

Prosecutors will present their case to the country’s federal criminal court in Bellinzona, the attorney general’s office said, without specifying a date.


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