Jamil Hassan was born in 1953 in Homs, Syria. Adviser of the President Bashar al-Assad, he became in 2009 the Chief of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate. Under his direct supervision, hundreds of detainees were allegedly subjected to torture, inhumane treatment, and extrajudicial killings.
The Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate, headed by Hassan, is regarded as the most powerful and brutal of Syria’s four intelligence services. From 2011, the Directorate is said to have carried out a policy of repression and surveillance of the opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s government. Arbitrary detention, torture, persecution and sexual violence, including threats, humiliation and rape, have allegedly been widely used. The inhumane conditions of detention, involving extreme hunger and an almost complete lack of medical care in the detention centres, allegedly resulted in critical medical states and deaths of detainees.
In 2013, Mazen Dabbagh and his son Patrick, two Franco-Syrian, are said to have been arrested by officers who declared belonging to the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate. They have been missing since.
Furthermore, war crimes and crimes against humanity were allegedly committed in the detention centres controlled by the Syrian Intelligence Services, in particular in the sections 253, 215 and 227 of the Syrian Military Intelligence Direction. High-ranking officials, including Hassan, are suspected – as hierarchical superiors – to be indirect perpetrators or accomplices of illegal arrests, detentions, tortures, sexual violence and other inhumane acts committed in the detention centres of these branches between May 2011 and July 2015.
The crimes alleged were unveiled by a former employer of the Syrian Military Police code named Caesar. He has handled over more than 53 000 photographs taken between May 2011 and August 2013 showing more than 6000 corpses of detainees with visible marks of torture and inhumane treatment. Thanks to these photographs, victims have been identified, like Abdulmuemen Alhai Hamdo, who disappeared on 17 February 2013. In 2015, the eldest child of Abdulmuemen Alhai Hamdo recognised the corpse of his father on several photos.
On 9 May 2011, the European Union has adopted sanctions against Hassan estimating he was responsible of the violent repression against the civil population. These sanctions consisted in preventing him to travel abroad and in freezing his assets in Europe. On 29 June 2011, the US also adopted sanctions against Hassan for violation of Human Rights in Syria.
PROCEDURE IN FRANCE
On 24 October 2016, the International Federation of Human Rights and the Human Rights Ligue, Obeida Dabbagh, brother and uncle of Mazen and Patrick Dabbagh, filed a complaint to the Prosecutor of the French specialized unit in the prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. They alleged that the victims were arrested in November 2013 by Officials who declared belonging to the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate, headed by Hassan, who is mentioned in the complaint.
In October 2018, French authorities issued an international arrest warrants against three high-ranking Officials of the Syrian Intelligence Services: Jamil Hasan (Director of the Air Force Intelligence Service), Ali Mamluk (Director of the National Security Office), and Abdel Salam Mahmoud. They are all accused of complicity in acts of torture, complicity in enforced disappearances, complicity in crimes against humanity, war crimes and war offences.
In 2019, the investigative judges heard around 20 new witnesses who had been held in the Mezzeh detention center in Damascus.
In 2020, the investigation is ongoing. Syrian survivors of the Mezzeh detention center in Damascus were heard by the investigative judge throughout the year.
PROCEDURE IN GERMANY
In September 2011, the German Federal Prosecutor opened a structural investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria since 2011. This investigation is aimed at gathering evidence of crimes committed by the Syrian government, and was particularly advanced by the release of photographs taken by the former employee of the Syrian military police, codenamed ‘Caesar’. He handed over more than 53,000 photographs taken in Syria between May 2011 and August 2013, showing over 6,000 corpses of detainees with visible marks of torture and inhuman treatment. The structural investigation has resulted thus far in investigations against at least 10 individuals involved in crimes committed by the Syrian government.
On 1 March 2017, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the Syrian Centre for Legal Researches and Studies (SCLRS) and the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) alongside with seven Syrian victims, filed a complaint for torture to the German Prosecutor Office.
On 21 September 2017, the Caesar-Files Support Group and the ECCHR filed a new complaint to the German Prosecutor Office against high-ranking officials of the Syrian Intelligence Services and the Military Police, including Hassan, for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in Syrian detention centers.
On 6 November 2017, 11 Syrian torture victims, supported by ECCHR, SCLSR and SCM, filed two more criminal complaints with the Office of the German Federal Public Prosecutor. The complaints denounce crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in various detention facilities of five branches of the Air Force Intelligence Directorate in Damascus, Aleppo and Hama, as well as in the Saydnaya military prison. The complaints target high-ranking officials of the National Security Office and Air Force Intelligence Directorate, among them the head of the Air Force Intelligence Directorate, Jamil Hassan, as well as high-ranking Syrian military officials.
On 8 June 2018, the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichshof – BGH) issued an arrest warrant against Jamil Hassan for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, upon a request of the German Federal Prosecutor. He is accused of having killed, tortured, caused severe physical or mental harm to numerous detainees of the Air Force Intelligence Directorate between 2011 and 2013, in form of direct perpetration, co-perpetration, or as a military commander. The arrest warrant relies on the Caesar’s report and the testimonies of 24 Syrian victims who have suffered acts of torture.
PROCEDURE IN SPAIN
On 1 February 2017, Amal Hamdo Anfalis, Spanish National of Syrian origin, filed a complaint, with the help of the law firm “Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers” (Hereinafter Guernica 37), to the Spanish National Court (Audiencia Nacional) against nine high-ranking officials, military and high-ranking government officials of the Syrian Arab Republic, for acts of terrorism and enforced disappearances committed against her brother, Abdulmuemen Alhai Hamdo. Mamluk is one of the persons referred to in the complaint.
On 27 March 2017, the Judge Eloy Velasco Nuñez declared the complaint admissible and opened an investigation. It was ordered that testimonies be collected from the victim, witnesses and that rogatory letters be sent. On 30 March 2017, the Prosecutor appealed the decision.
On 27 July 2017, the Spanish National Court decided to dismiss the case after the Prosecutor argued that he did not have jurisdiction to prosecute the alleged crimes.
“Guernica 37” appealed the decision before the Appeal Chamber of the Spanish National Court. On 15 December 2017, the appeal was rejected.
In February 2018, Guernica 37 requested the Spanish Supreme Court to admit their complaint and to order the reopening of the investigation. They also asked the Constitutional Court to examine the constitutionality of the current law on universal jurisdiction in Spain. In parallel, they seized the Court of Justice of the European Union to know if the current definition of a victim under the Spanish legislation is in accordance with European regulations, and if the European directives equate the concepts of direct and indirect victim in order to hold legitimacy to exercise jurisdiction and give competence to the Spanish courts.
In 2021, the investigative judges heard the NGO Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression as a civil party in the proceedings.
It is the first time that the individual responsibility of a Syrian high-ranking official is sought for exactions committed against the civil population and members of the opposition to the regime.