By Shweta Desai
PARIS (AA) - The French Foreign Ministry said Friday that it handed over new graphic evidence to the country’s top anti-terrorism court to investigate the 2013 Tadamon massacre committed by the Assad regime
It said it received “extensive documentation” involving photographs, videos and reports on atrocities committed by pro-regime forces in the Tadamon suburb of Damascus.
Forty-one civilians were reportedly gunned down by regime forces who then piled their bodies on top of each other and set them on fire.
“The collection of these documents is the result of the determined work of several human rights defenders, whose courage we salute,” according to a statement by the ministry.
The evidence has been handed to the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor's Office (PNAT) on the basis of Article 40 of the country’s Code of Criminal Procedure under which legal proceedings can be initiated under the jurisdiction of French courts in matters of crimes against humanity and war crimes, it said.
Footage of the massacre captured by a Syrian military member who later defected and found refuge in Europe was leaked to an activist in France, and to two academics -- Ansar Shahhoud and professor Ugur Umit Ungor from the University of Amsterdam’s Holocaust and Genocide Center.
The Guardian newspaper in the UK and the US’ New Lines magazine published reports in April that revived the almost forgotten massacre.
“The facts alleged are likely to constitute the most serious international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity and war crimes,” said the Foreign Ministry, adding that France is fully mobilized to bring the perpetrators to justice.
France opened an investigation in 2015 for crimes against humanity against former Syrian intelligence officer Abdulhamid C, who was accused of torture and crimes against humanity against prisoners in the state detention facilities, that were revealed under the “Caesar” files -- a collection of thousands of images that show inmates who were tortured in Syrian prisons.
The government also initiated legislative changes to provide extraterritorial jurisdiction to the country’s courts for matters of international crimes, thus paving the way to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity committed during the war in Syria.