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The New Arab Staff

Syrian rights group calls on France to strip Assad's uncle of top honour

Rifaat al-Assad is widely considered responsible for the 1982 Hama Massacre [Twitter]

Date of publication: 23 June, 2020

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Rifaat al-Assad, uncle to the Syrian dictator, was last week convicted of money laundering but activists want him to face trial over alleged crimes against humanity.
A Syrian rights organisation has called on President Emmanuel Macron to strip the uncle of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad of France's highest order of merit for his alleged crimes against humanity, after he was also prosecuted on corruption charges.

A French court sentenced Rifaat al-Assad last week to four years in prison over the embezzlement of public funds, money laundering and tax evasion.

However, the verdict has disappointed rights activists who want to see Assad held accountable for his alleged complicity in the deaths of thousands of Syrian civilians.

The Syrian Human Rights Commmittee (SHRC) on Monday called on Macron to strip Assad of the Legion of Honour, the country's highest order of merit.

Retaining this honour is an "insult to the thousands of victims that have either been killed, or have suffered due to Rifaat al-Assad's crimes against humanity", the rights organisation said in a statement.

The brother of former Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad, Rifaat al-Assad is known as the "butcher of Tadmor" for his alleged role in presiding over the massacre of more than 1,000 political prisoners held at the notorious central Syrian prison in 1980.

In 1982, forces under his command are also accused of murdering thousands of civilians in what is known as the Hama Massacre.

The 27-day siege claimed the lives of as many as 40,000 people.

After attempting a coup against his brother in 1984, Assad was exiled from Syria and has since lived in France, Spain, and the UK.

He has never been tried for his alleged crimes against the Syrian people.

Assad was awarded the Legion of Honour by former French President Francois Mitterand in 1986, reportedly for his role in defusing tensions between the Syrian and French security services.

Anti-corruption NGO Sherpa has also called on Macron to strip Assad of the honour.

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