Switzerland is investigating Rifaat al-Assad, uncle of Bashar al-Assad for war crimes he committed in Hama city in the 1980s, Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger said on Monday. A complaint was brought against Rifaat in Switzerland in 2013 for involvement in the Hama 1982 Massacre.
The Geneva-based activists and lawyer group TRIAL International said that it had brought the complaint against Rifaat al-Assad for massacres in Tadmor in 1980 and Hama in 1982, and was joined by Swiss lawyers for six Syrian plaintiffs seeking justice.
“He was in command of the Defense Brigades – the country’s elite commando troops – in the 1980s,” the group said in a statement. “Under his lead, the Brigades are suspected of participating in the massacre of several thousand people in Tadmor and Hama.”
Damien Chervaz, the leading Swiss lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said that the Swiss federal police concluded that members of the Defense Brigades were present on the ground and played a key role in the massacre.
The Swiss attorney general found enough evidence to open an investigation against Rifaat al-Assad, the newspaper said, adding that the problem is that Rifaat left Syria in 1984 and kept moving between France and Spain and rarely visited Switzerland for fear of being arrested.
The Swiss attorney general confirmed that an investigation into war crimes was opened in December 2013 against a Syrian national who was a commander of a military unit in the 1980s, but declined to confirm his identity.
The Hama Massacre, which took place during Hafez al-Assad’s rule, began on February 2, 1982 and continued for 27 days, claiming the lives of tens of thousands of people. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Kulluna Shurakaa’ Newspaper)