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France seeks ranking Syrian officials in detention deaths

PARIS (AP) — France has issued international arrest warrants for three ranking Syrian officials, accusing them of complicity with crimes against humanity in the deaths of a father and son who were detained in 2013 in a notorious government prison.

The family of Mazen and Patrick Dabbagh learned over the summer they had died in prison after the Syrian government released an 8,000-strong list of deaths in detention. Both men were dual French-Syrian citizens who lived in Syria.

The Syrian government never gave a reason for their detentions nor the specific causes of their deaths. Patrick Dabbagh was 20-years-old when he died weeks after his arrest; his father was 58, according to a death certificate that had November 2017 listed as when he died.

Monday’s announcement of the arrest warrant came from the International Federation for Human Rights, which brought a case on behalf of the men’s’ family in October 2016. At the time, the family only knew they were arrested and imprisoned by Syrian Air Force intelligence officers in November 2013.

The warrants name two of Syria’s most powerful security chiefs: Gen. Ali Mamlouk, who heads National Security Bureau, and Maj. Gen. Jamil Hassan of Air Force intelligence.

The third man, Abdel Salam Mahmoud, runs the Mezze air base prison unit where the Dabbaghs were detained.

Obeida Dabbagh, brother and uncle of the dead men, said justice often felt distant.

“One day these people will find themselves without a protector,” he added.

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