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Syria’s British first lady Asma al-Assad ‘faces war crimes prosecution in UK’

Syria‘s British-born first lady Asma al-Assad who shopped for £4,000 crystal-encrusted designers while the country tipped into civil war could be prosecuted for war crimes in the UK for her role in the conflict.  

Asma, 45, who is married to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, could also lose her British citizenship after the Metropolitan Police opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that she incited and encouraged acts of terrorism during the war.  

The development comes after UN investigators said this month thousands of civilians detained by government and pro-government forces have been subjected to ‘unimaginable suffering’ including torture, sexual violence and death.  

Over ten years, the Syrian civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of people, uprooted at least 11 million, and created one of the world’s worst refugee crises, with the regime accused of using chemical weapons.  

Syria’s British-born first lady Asma al-Assad who shopped for £4,000 crystal-encrusted designers while the country tipped into civil war could be prosecuted for war crimes in the UK for her role in the conflict. Pictured: Asma and Bashar al-Assad with the Queen in 2002

A preliminary investigation has been opened by the police after Guernica 37, an international justice chambers, submitted confidential filings relating to Asma’s alleged influence in the civil war.    

Asma, a former banker who speaks four languages, is also accused by the opposition in Syria of complicity in the government atrocities and has been sanctioned by the US government for her alleged role in the regime.  

Washington said last year that she had ‘spearheaded efforts on behalf of the regime to consolidate economic and political power, including by using her so-called charities and civil society organisations’.  

Asma, who been subject to UK and EU sanctions since 2012, is said to have incited and encouraged terrorist acts during the civil war. 

Asma, 45, who is married to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, could also lose her British citizenship after the Metropolitan Police opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that she incited and encouraged acts of terrorism during the war

Asma, 45, who is married to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, could also lose her British citizenship after the Metropolitan Police opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that she incited and encouraged acts of terrorism during the war

Syrians walk along a severely damaged road in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor in this file image taken in January 2014

Syrians walk along a severely damaged road in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor in this file image taken in January 2014 

The Syrian civil war, which began on March 15, 2011 as part of the wider 2011 Arab Spring protests and involved a number of different factions including Assad’s Syrian Arab Republic, Hezbollah, ISIS and the U.S.-supported the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, displaced millions of Syrians. 

Asma’s own family comes from Homs, the city at the centre of the uprising that has been brutally battered by her husband’s regime. 

Asma, who been subject to UK and EU sanctions since 2012, is said to have incited and encouraged terrorist acts during the civil war

Asma, who been subject to UK and EU sanctions since 2012, is said to have incited and encouraged terrorist acts during the civil war

Toby Cadman, head of Guernica 37, told The Sunday Times: ‘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.’

Guernica 37 added in a statement: ‘It is important to hold not only those who carry out these horrific crimes accountable but also those who promote, incite, encourage and glorify such acts.

‘As the subject is a British national it is important that she faces prosecution if the evidence supports the allegation and not merely stripped of her citizenship.’    

It is unclear whether Asma would attend a UK court and whether prosecutors would then continue with a trial in absentia. But if an Interpol red notice is issued, Asma would be unable to travel outside of Syria without risking arrest.          

A Met Police spokeswoman told MailOnline: ‘We can confirm that the Met’s War Crimes Unit, part of the Counter Terrorism Command, received a referral on 31 July 2020 relating to the ongoing Syrian conflict. 

‘The referral is in the process of being assessed by officers from the War Crimes Unit.’ 

Asma is said to have been concerned with fine jewellery and swapping detailed with friends of crystal-encrusted designer shoes costing nearly £4,000 during which Syrians rose up against their bloodstained regime

Asma is said to have been concerned with fine jewellery and swapping detailed with friends of crystal-encrusted designer shoes costing nearly £4,000 during which Syrians rose up against their bloodstained regime

Asma was embroiled in further scandal when a series of emails emerged in March 2012 which were sent between her and the president. She had been styled as her nation’s answer to Princess Diana — but she was cast in a far harsher light: as the Marie Antoinette of the Middle East.  

Asma is said to have been concerned with fine jewellery and swapping detailed with friends of crystal-encrusted designer shoes costing nearly £4,000 during which Syrians rose up against their bloodstained regime. 

Other purchases in the email traffic show how, in July 2011, Asma was placing an order for £10,000 worth of candlesticks, tables and chandeliers which were to be shipped from a Paris designer through a company in Dubai.

And in November 2011 — as the violence tipped into armed conflict on the streets of Syria — Asma was asking a London art dealer about works costing between £5,000 and £35,000.

Mourners attend the funeral of civilians and fighters, who died during attacks by Turkish-led forces on the border town of Ras al-Ain, in a cemetary in Tal Tamr, near the Syrian Kurdish town of Ras al-Ain in October 2019

Mourners attend the funeral of civilians and fighters, who died during attacks by Turkish-led forces on the border town of Ras al-Ain, in a cemetary in Tal Tamr, near the Syrian Kurdish town of Ras al-Ain in October 2019 

However, in January 2012 she was less than happy after unpacking a pair of bedside tables shipped by a Chelsea cabinet-maker as she complained they had ‘different finishes and they have different colour draws (sic)!’.  

The electronic documents emerged on the first anniversary of the Syrian uprising and were apparently intercepted by the Supreme Council of the Revolution Group. 

The emails were published by The Guardian, which admitted it has been impossible to verify whether all the messages are genuine.   

This month, the United Nations investigators said that thousands of civilians had been subjected to ‘unimaginable suffering’ including torture, sexual violence and death in detention during a decade of conflict in Syria 

Thousands of civilians have been subjected to 'unimaginable suffering' including torture, sexual violence and death in detention during a decade of conflict in Syria, United Nations investigators said. Above, a file image of a boy being rescued from a building in Aleppo in 2014

Thousands of civilians have been subjected to ‘unimaginable suffering’ including torture, sexual violence and death in detention during a decade of conflict in Syria, United Nations investigators said. Above, a file image of a boy being rescued from a building in Aleppo in 2014 

The report said that men, women, boys and girls detained by government or pro-government forces had been subjected to inhuman treatment and torture, including rape.

‘At least 20 different horrific methods of torture used by the government of Syria have been extensively documented,’ the report said.

‘These include administering electric shocks, the burning of body parts, pulling off nails and teeth, mock executions, folding detainees into a car tyre and crucifying or suspending individuals from one or two limbs for prolonged periods, often in combination with severe beating.’

Tens of thousands of civilians who were detained are unaccounted for, with no trace of their whereabouts, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria found. 


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