The French government is currently investigating whether Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has committed crimes against humanity, Reuters reported Wednesday.
The investigation, which is also examining claims of torture and kidnapping by Assad’s forces, was opened “on the basis of indications received from the foreign ministry” on Sept. 10, an official at the prosecutor’s office said.
An estimated 250,000 people have been killed in Syria’s four-year civil war between Assad’s troops, rebel groups and Islamic State militants, and a further 11 million displaced.
The ministry’s dossier drew on some 55,000 photographic images smuggled out of the country by a former Syrian army officer, showing 11,000 alleged victims of forces loyal to Assad, according to various media reports.
The images of torture that form the basis of the French investigation were smuggled out by a Syrian military police photographer known as “Caesar.” The photos prompted America’s top war crimes official to proclaim last year that Assad is guilty of crimes against humanity. Caesar told his story to Vanity Fair earlier this year, explaining how the Assad regime tortured and eliminated opponents. France may only be able to prosecute Assad if French nationals are identified among the victims.
The French government, along with other world powers, has backtracked on its demand that Assad be removed from power as a condition for peace talks as Russian military support for him has increased. Iran is reported to spend billions propping up Assad.
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