The brutal crackdown led by the Syrian regime against its civil society since March 2011 escalated in a conflict that caused more than 400’000 deaths, mainly of civilians. The crackdown also included innumerable arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and cases of systematic torture in detention centres. In the early years of the conflict, the regime of Bashar al-Assad specifically targeted human rights defenders, activists and cyber-activists who struggled to denounce the ongoing human rights violations in Syria. Detection of these persons has been facilitated by the sophisticated material commercialised by QOSMOS and sold to Bashar al-Assad by the French society. These surveillance tools which allowed the regime to have a tight hand over the communication tools used by activists and the population in general has contributed extensively to their severe persecution.
On 22 July 2012, the International Federation for Human Rights(FIDH) and the “Ligue des droits de l’homme” (LDH) filed a request with the Paris Prosecutor (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris) to open an investigation into the possible supply by French companies – including QOSMOS – of surveillance material to the Syrian regime.
On 11 April 2014, the case was transferred to the specialized unit and a judicial investigation into the alleged role of QOSMOS in aiding and abetting acts of torture in Syria was opened.
In April 2015, after being questioned by the examining magistrate, QOSMOS was attributed the status of “assisted witness”. This status, which can be used prior to a formal indictment, may be applied to any person (including a company) accused by a witness, or otherwise implicated by some other evidence indicating that the person may have been complicit, as a perpetrator or an accomplice in committing the crimes under investigation.
In July 2015, five Syrian victims testified anonymously as witnesses in this case. All five witnesses had been identified, arrested and tortured by the Syrian regime because of surveillance of their electronic communications. They described in detail the violence they suffered in detention. For security reasons, they were not able to join the proceedings as civil parties in the case (since this would have required them to disclose their identities).
In January 2018, the examining magistrate in charge of the case expressed his intention to close the investigation. Shortly after, the FIDH and the LDH filed an application to hear a new witness, which was accepted by the examining magistrate.