[JURIST] France has officially opened [NYT report] a criminal torture investigation into the actions of the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile], officials confirmed Wednesday. The investigation is based on tens of thousands of photos allegedly documenting torture that took place in Syrian detention centers between 2011 and 2013 which have been ascribed to a Syrian Army defector known as "Cesar." Preliminary conclusions [materials] released Thursday credited the photographs with validating "widespread and systematic use of torture" by the Syrian government. French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Laurent Fabius [official profile, in French] stressed France's position that Assad is responsible [press release] for the alleged crimes.
[w]e - and France has not changed its stance - believe that we need to focus on effectiveness and, if possible, morality too. As far as morality is concerned, there is nothing to discuss. Bashar al-Assad has been described by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as a criminal against humanity. Everyone knows that he is responsible for the fact that, starting from a small rebellion involving a few young people in Syria three and a half years ago, 250,000 people have now been killed. So on this basis alone, I would say there is nothing even to discuss.Despite Russian support of Assad, France maintains that removal of Assad is essential to establishing a free and safe Syria.
On Sunday, France's government announced [JURIST report] that it has launched its first airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) [JURIST backgrounder] in Syria. The attack targeted an IS training camp in order to prevent attacks against French interests in Syria and also to protect Syrian civilians. Up until this point, France had only attacked IS targets in the neighboring country of Iraq, and has only contributed three percent of the total airstrikes carried out by the US-led coalition against IS. France has acknowledged that getting rid of President Bashar al-Assad is no longer the top priority, and combating IS is now the main objective.