French rights groups to sue Syrian leader

Groups plan to push for probe into whether al-Assad and other Syrian officials own assets in France amid EU sanctions.

    Iran's supreme leader Khomeini has reportedly backed offering the Syrian regime $5.8b in aid [EPA]

    Two French rights groups say they will file legal complaints against Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, and other members of the ruling Baath party in a bid to push the French government to investigate whether they own any assets in France.

    Sherpa and Transparency International France said in a statement on Tuesday that they want the government to make public all of its findings.

    It came as the European Union considers stepping up sanctions on the Syrian government over its continued brutal crackdown on a four-month-old pro-democracy uprising.

    "The objective is get an investigation open that would then identify assets that they may own in France either in their own name or through intermediaries and then to freeze them so they are not transferred to unco-operative jurisdictions," the rights groups said.

    More than 1,600 civilians have been killed and about 20,000 others imprisoned by Syrian security forces in the clamp down on nationwide protests since March, according to rights groups.

    UN human rights advisers say the crackdown could amount to crimes against humanity.

    The EU has imposed asset freezes and travel bans on al-Assad and other Baath officials. It also targeted companies with links to the Syrian military.

    Fresh fatalities

    In the latest development, at least 11 people were killed and 30 others were injured when Syrian security forces stormed the Damascus suburb of Kanakir on Wednesday, rights activists said.

    Mahmoud Marei, head of Arab Organisation for Human Rights in Syria, an opposition group, said about 300 people were detained in the military campaign.

    Earlier this year, French rights groups filed complaints against embattled Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's leader; and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia's ousted president, over their bloody campaigns to quell popular uprisings.

    Paris has led efforts to pass a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria's crackdown on pro-reform protests. It has also pushed for tougher sanctions against al-Assad's government, saying he has lost his legitimacy.

    The uprising is the biggest challenge to al-Assad's rule since he succeeded his father as president 11 years ago.

    As international condemnation heightens against the regime, the US has also denounced Syria's army as "barbaric" and "reprehensible",  renewing its charges that al-Assad has lost legitimacy.

    The US state department also highlighted the death of Talhat Dalat, a 12-year-old Syrian boy,  who human rights activists said died on Saturday after a  policeman shot him at close range during an anti-government rally.

    Victoria Nuland, a US state department spokeswoman, said in a statement on Monday: "The behavior of Syria's security forces, including other such barbaric  shootings, widescale arrests of young men and boys, brutal torture, and other abuses of basic human rights, is reprehensible."

    Avaaz, an international rights group, has revealed the identities of 2,918 Syrians whose whereabouts are uknown after being arrested by security forces since protests first erupted in March.

    Ricken Patel, executive director of Avaaz, said: "Hour by hour, peaceful protesters are plucked from crowds by Syria's infamously brutal security forces, never to be seen again."

    'Iran boosts support'

    Mamoun al-Homsi, a Syrian opposition activist, believes that the next stage in the the revolution will be the "gravest" with an intensified crackdown - as supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly backed offering $5.8bn in aid to Syria to bolster its position in the face of challenging dissent.

    Tehran's financial support, also reported by a Tehran think-tank, came after the Washington Post, citing unnamed US officials in May, said there was an influx of Iranian manpower, including advisors and trainers, flowing into Syria.

    That aid includes not only weapons and riot gear, but also sophisticated surveillance equipment that is helping Syrian authorities track down dissidents.

    Al-Homsi also pointed out that there are new forms of "terrorist acts" exercised by the Syrian regime against the Syrian people to counter rising military defections.

    Another aspect of that "grave situation" was manifested in al-Assad's appointment of Sameer Othman al-Sheikh, an officer in the intelligence apparatus, as governor to the flashpoint province of Deir az-Zor on Sunday, in response to booming demonstrations there, he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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