LONDON: Syria’s first lady, who is also a British citizen, may be prosecuted and stripped of her UK citizenship after a preliminary investigation was opened into allegations that she incited and encouraged terrorist acts during the country’s civil war.
Asma Al-Assad, 45, moved to Syria after her marriage to Bashar Al-Assad in 2000, and has given speeches supporting the Syrian armed forces.
Syrian forces have targeted civilian areas, including hospitals and schools, with barrel bombs, chemical weapons, airstrikes and artillery during the last ten years and the Syrian government has been designated a state sponsor of terror by the US.
The Metropolitan police have opened a preliminary investigation after an international law chambers based in London sent evidence of the first lady’s power in the Syrian ruling class and vocal support for Syrian armed forces, The Times reported.
If prosecuted, she would join other influential figures in autocratic regimes who have faced justice in the UK.
Toby Cadman, head of law chambers Guernica 37, said he believed the case for prosecuting Al-Assad was a strong one.
“Our legal team at Guernica 37 has been actively investigating this matter for several months and as a result have filed two confidential communications with the Metropolitan police service counter terrorism command (SO15). It is important that as we approach the tenth anniversary of the conflict in Syria, there is an effective process aimed at ensuring those responsible are held accountable,” Cadman told the British newspaper.
The investigation argues that Al-Assad is guilty of encouraging terrorism through her public support of the Syrian armed forces.
It is not clear whether prosecutors would wish to proceed with a trial in absentia and it is unlikely that the first lady would obey a court summons in the UK.
An Interpol red notice could be issued, which would mean she could not travel outside Syria without facing arrest.
The investigation also raises the serious possibility that Al-Assad could come under scrutiny by the Home Office and be stripped of her British citizenship.
A Met spokesman said: “We can confirm that the Met’s war crimes unit … received a referral on July 31, 2020 relating to the ongoing Syrian conflict. The referral is in the process of being assessed by officers from the war crimes unit.”