LONDON (AP) — Britain said Monday it was imposing new sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, including asset freezes and travel bans on the leader’s close allies.
The announcement came on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Syrian uprising. The six sanctioned individuals include Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, presidential adviser Luna al-Shibl, and two military generals who Britain said were responsible for the violent repression of civilians by troops under their command.
The Foreign Office said they also include two prominent businessmen, one of whom, Yassar Ibrahim, allegedly “acts as a front” for the “personal hold on the Syrian economy” wielded by Assad and his wife, Asma, while millions of Syrians go without food.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the Assad regime for subjecting the Syrian people “to a decade of brutality for the temerity of demanding peaceful reform.”
“Today we are holding six more individuals from the regime to account for their wholesale assault on the very citizens they should be protecting,” Raab said in a statement.
The sanctions were the first against the Syrian leadership under Britain’s new autonomous sanctions regime after Brexit.
Separately, British media also reported that the Metropolitan Police has launched a preliminary investigation into claims that Asma Assad has incited, aided and encouraged acts of terrorism and war crimes by Syrian government forces.
London-based international law firm Guernica 37 said it filed initial documents detailing the allegations against Asma Assad with the police force’s War Crimes Unit last year.
Asma Assad was born and educated in London before she became first lady of Syria.
Toby Cadman, co-founder of the firm, said Monday the goal was to see her prosecuted and held accountable before an English court. She could be stripped of her British citizenship if evidence supports the allegations, he added.
“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,” the law firm said in a statement released on Saturday. “This is an important step in holding senior political officials accountable for their acts.”
The firm, which has been involved in several Syrian-related investigations — including at the International Court of Justice — said it couldn’t comment on the specific allegations because the matter was under review by the authorities.
The Metropolitan Police didn’t comment directly on the reports, but when asked about the investigation into Asma Assad the force said in a statement: “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,” it added. The force declined to comment further.