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(Paris, May 12, 2023) – Two Verdict By FranceNine rights groups said today that the Court of Cassation relating to Syria atrocity crimes on May 12, 2023 has recognized France’s ability to address serious international crimes. While the judgments confirmed the jurisdiction of the French courts over a large number of pending cases, they do not address the full scope of the restrictive conditions enshrined in French law. The French government still needs to press ahead with urgently needed reforms to lift the legal sanctions, which risk France becoming a safe haven for those responsible for some of the world’s worst crimes.

The Court of Cassation, the highest court of the French judiciary, examines the provisions in French. Law Restricts access to justice for victims of serious crimes committed abroad. The judges concluded that the prerequisites were met for the French judicial system to take on cases involving Syrian citizens accused of serious crimes committed in Syria.

“The Court of Cassation has taken into account the recommendations of the French General Prosecutor and the pleas of victims’ representatives to allow French authorities to pursue perpetrators of international crimes committed abroad,” said Brigitte Jolivet, spokeswoman for the French Alliance for International Can go.” Criminal Court (Alliance Française la Court Penale Internationale, CF-CPI). “These two long-awaited decisions will have an impact on dozens of complaints and investigations in France related to international crimes committed not only in Syria, but also in other countries, including Libya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But the onus is still on the French government to amend the law.

court of cassation Agreed Application of the legal principle of universal jurisdiction in France, which allows national judicial authority To prosecute the most serious crimes under international law even if they were not committed within the country’s territory or by or against any of its citizens. The groups said each decision examined a recent case related to Syria, which highlights how restrictions in French law limit the exercise of universal jurisdiction against those implicated in serious crimes.

The court examined the cases of abdulhamid chabanA former Syrian soldier has been accused of complicity crimes against humanity in February 2019, and majdi nemaFormer spokesman for a Syrian armed group confronted war crimes, torture, and other charges. In both cases, the court focused on the conditions under which French courts could adjudicate atrocities, crimes against humanity, and war crimes under universal jurisdiction.

Court of Cassation, in November 2021 Settle The Chaban case lacked jurisdiction of the French judicial authorities for crimes against humanity. In a restrictive application of the “double criminality rule”, the court held that the prosecution could not proceed under French law because there was no provision in domestic Syrian law that explicitly criminalized crimes against humanity. After that decision, civil societyLawyers, and survivors expressed concern that misuse of the double criminality rule could result in perpetrators of serious crimes who exist in France and are evading justice, and called for reforms to do away with the rule.

In the Nema case, the Paris Court of Appeal decided not to follow an earlier decision of the Court of Cassation and held that Syria was bound by provisions of international law prohibiting war crimes, which establish a less restrictive interpretation But the case also drew attention to a second problematic limitation in French law: an accused person must “habitually” reside in French territory.

Because the Nema case created an inconsistency in French case law on the double criminality rule, the Full Court of Cassation Settle To consider the issue as well as of “habitual residence” status. The court also examined whether members of non-state armed groups could be prosecuted for atrocities under certain conditions in France, or whether only state agents could be prosecuted for that crime. The Court of Cassation heard arguments in the cases on 17 March.

Jean Sulzer, head of the International Justice Commission, said, “While the Court of Cassation specifically addressed the capacity of French authorities to pursue cases of serious crimes relating to Syria, the decisions have wider implications for France’s overall role Will have to.” Amnesty International in France. “These decisions allow victims – who have no recourse to justice in their own countries or at the International Criminal Court – to bring cases to France, allowing it to play an important role in the fight against impunity.” “

Rights groups said that although the Court of Cassation’s rulings confirmed the jurisdiction of French courts over a significant number of pending cases, they do not address the full scope of the restrictive conditions.

on March 17 the hearingThe International Federation for Human Rights (Fédération Internationale pour les Droits Humanes, FIDH), representing the interests of victims in the cases, argued for a broader interpretation of both positions, on France’s legal obligation to prosecute the most serious crimes. Cast light on. The General Prosecutor’s Court of Cassation asked the court to confirm France’s jurisdiction over both cases, saying it would clarify the practice of universal jurisdiction in the country. Defense lawyers asked the court to affirm Chaban’s decision, claiming that it was legally proper to adopt a restrictive application of universal jurisdiction.

Only some of the decisions of the Court of Cassation dealt with Sanctions In French law that can prevent a person from successfully prosecuting cases involving serious crimes. Unlike other crimes in France, in such cases the prosecutor has the discretion to decide whether to prosecute. In addition, French civil society groups have expressed concern about a requirement that French prosecutors verify whether any other national or international courts Have claimed their jurisdiction before starting the investigation.

some restrictions apply for some crimes, but not for others. This has created a discrepancy between different serious crimes – crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, torture. enforced disappearance Addressing the country.

Rights groups said that despite the Court of Cassation’s rulings, the government must pursue legislative changes needed to remove restrictions that thwart justice in France for serious crimes. Overall, the sanctions are not consistent with France’s stated commitment to international justice and the fight against impunity.

In recent years, members of parliament have proposed new bills or amendments to end the restrictions, without success. Although the French government had Express While open to reform ahead of the 2022 presidential election, the authorities have not shown the political will to take concrete steps to that effect. all four restrictions will be removed allow The groups said victims, survivors and others turned to French justice as a worthwhile forum to fight impunity for the worst crimes.

,The French government needs to end its ambiguous position on France’s ability to prosecute serious crimes,” said Alice Autin, international justice officer at Human Rights Watch. “France can play an important role in advancing international justice around the world, but serious legislative changes need to follow.”

Signatory Organization:

  • Amnesty International France
  • Alliance Française for La Court Penelle Internationale
  • International Union for Human Rights
  • league des droits humanes
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Redressal
  • Reporters Without Borders
  • Syndicate de la Magistrate
  • test international

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