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German Probe Says Maher Assad Responsible for Chemical Attack in Syria’s Ghouta

German Probe Says Maher Assad Responsible for Chemical Attack in Syria’s Ghouta

Saturday, 28 November, 2020 - 06:00
A mass grave with the bodies of those killed in a sarin gas attack on eastern Ghouta in 2013

Germany’s international broadcaster DW and weekly Der Spiegel magazine have received documents prepared by the German war crimes unit proving that Syrian General Maher Assad was responsible for the chemical attack committed in Ghouta on August 21, 2013.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe is currently examining a criminal complaint filed by three non-government organizations that documented the war crime in Syria, and the role of the senior regime figures in the attack.

DW and Der Spiegel said there is evidence that President Bashar Assad's younger brother, Maher, who is also commander of the Republican Guard and the army's elite Fourth Armored Division, was the military commander who directly ordered the use of sarin gas in the Ghouta attack.

The DW website said the war crimes unit is operating under German Law approved in 2002 and which gives Germany the right of universal jurisdiction for international crimes, such as war crimes and genocide, including the sarin attack in Syria.

The investigation does not spare Bashar Assad from accusations of involvement in the crime, which has shaken the world. It confirms that he “tasked” his brother, Maher, with carrying out the attack.

The documents revealed that cooler weather on that night of the attack allowed the nerve gas to permeate into lower levels of buildings as it spread across parts of the opposition stronghold.

"It was like Judgment Day, as if people were ants killed with bug spray," Eman F., a trained nurse and mother of three children, told the investigative unit. "Many people were dead on the road, cars stopped, people packed into them [as if they died trying to flee]."

Eman asked her brother to take the children to safety before she rushed to the local hospital where she worked. Her husband, Mohammed F., followed shortly after to assist with first aid.

Her 19-year-old son was killed in the attack, which left at least 1,400 people, including more than 400 children, dead.

Steve Kostas, a senior legal officer with the Open Society Justice Initiative's litigation team, said: “We have evidence that [President Assad] is involved in the decision-making. I wouldn't say that we ourselves have proven that, but we certainly have some information that indicates his involvement in sarin attacks.”

In October, three non-government organizations - the Open Society Justice Initiative, the Syrian Archive, and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression - filed a criminal complaint with the Federal Prosecutor's Office in Germany against unnamed persons with regards to apparent sarin gas attacks in Ghouta in 2013 and Khan Sheikhoun in 2017.

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