An Analysis of France’s Recent Arrest Warrant and UAE Extradition Law

This month, a French criminal court issued an international arrest warrant for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the August 2013 chemical weapons attacks in Eastern Ghouta. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) had previously invited Bashar al-Assad to the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP28), which is set to begin on November 30. This prompts consideration of the possibility of extraditing Assad to France while he is in the UAE. The UAE has long expressed its commitment to international judicial cooperation and to accountability for serious violations of international law. The UAE’s legal framework—exemplified in Federal Laws Number 39 of 2006 and Number 12 of 2017, as well as the 2007 bilateral France-UAE Extradition Treaty—would provide no legal grounds to reject an extradition request in this case. Therefore, given France’s commitments to the rule of law and to fighting impunity for serious international crimes, including the use of chemical weapons, France should seize this opportunity and seek to have Assad extradited so he may face prosecution for his regime’s heinous atrocities. The UAE should also cooperate with France's request and provisionally arrest and extradite Assad if he attends COP28.