Syria: The Paris Court of Appeal confirms the jurisdiction of French courts in Majdi Nema case

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In a ruling handed down on 4 April 2022, the Investigating Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal rejected all the nullities that had been invoked by Majdi Nema’s defence, which had argued that French justice did not have jurisdiction over war crimes, torture and enforced disappearances. Majdi Nema had been indicted for these crimes by the War Crimes Unit of the Paris Judicial Court, following his arrest in Marseille in January 2020.

More than four months after the ruling of the Court of Cassation, which had declared French justice incompetent in a case involving crimes against humanity committed in Syria, the Court of Appeal has established a less restrictive interpretation of the condition of double criminality, a condition introduced by the French legislator in August 2010.

"This is excellent news for the civil parties. We now hope that a trial can be held in France that can shed light on the fate of the Douma 4 and provide justice to the Syrian victims"

said Mazen Darwish, Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)

"The investigating chamber followed the prosecutor’s office’s request and our position as civil parties in confirming the jurisdiction of the French courts in this case. We hope that this decision will serve as a reminder of the importance of the role of universal jurisdiction in the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes."

said Marc Bailly, Patrick Baudouin and Clémence Bectarte, lawyers for the civil parties

Background : crimes in Syria and Jaysh Al Islam

On 29 January 2020, Islam Alloush, former spokesman for Jaysh Al Islam ("The Army of Islam"), was arrested and charged by the Crimes Against Humanity Unit of the Paris Court of First Instance with war crimes, torture and enforced disappearances, and complicity in these crimes. This arrest marked the beginning of the first judicial investigation into crimes committed in Syria by the Islamist rebel group. Mainly active in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Jaysh Al Islam has been regularly accused of committing international crimes against civilians who lived under its rule from 2011 until 2018.

The group is also suspected of abducting, detaining, and torturing human rights lawyer
Razan Zaitouneh, Wael Hamada, co-founder of the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), and their colleagues Samira Al-Khalil, political activist, Nazem Al Hammadi, human rights lawyer. They were kidnapped in December 2013, while in the joint offices of Violations Documentation Center (VDC) and Local Development Small Projects (LDSPS) in Douma.

On 26 June 2019, the International Federation for Humain Rights (FIDH), SCM and the Ligue des droits de l’homme (LDH) had filed a complaint against Jaysh Al Islam, for the crimes committed by the group. Our organisations accompany the families of Razan, Wael, Samira and Nazem, but also about twenty other victims and their families in their quest for justice.

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