Asma Al Assad's UK citizenship scrutinised as she faces Syria war crimes investigation

Calls for stripping wife of Syrian president of her UK citizenship have been made for years

epa09061481 (FILE) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) with his wife Asma al-Assad arrive at New Delhi International airport, India, 17 June 2008 (reissued 08 March 2021). The Syrian Presidency has announced that the couple has tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.  EPA/HARISH TIYAGI *** Local Caption *** 02246544
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British police  have opened a preliminary investigation into Syria's first lady Asma Al Assad for involvement in war crimes, international lawyers Guernica 37 said on Saturday.

The chambers said it submitted the filing with the London Metropolitan Police's War Crimes Unit, into allegations of "incitement and encouragement to commit acts of terrorism" in Syria by Ms Al Assad, as the war's 10th anniversary approaches.

Guernica 37 describes itself as a specialist legal company which works with governments following conflict, but also "transnational litigation involving the enforcement of fundamental human rights protection", according to its website.

About half a million people have been killed since the war began in 2011, and more than 5.5 million Syrians have become refugees seeking safety in other countries.

More than six million people fled their homes, but remained inside Syria – internally displaced people who exist in makeshift camps and in some cases, can no longer return to their communities for fear of persecution, or because the government has confiscated their land.

Guernica 37 said it had been investigating Ms Al Assad for "a number of months", and it was seeking accountability for people who carried out the war crimes and those who "promote, incite, encourage and glorify such acts".

"This is an important step in holding senior political officials accountable for their acts and ensuring that a state, through an independent and impartial legal process, takes responsibility for the acts of its own nationals," Guernica 37 said on its website.

London's Metropolitan Police Service told Sky News: "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."

In November, the chambers said it was helping the Dutch government collect testimony from Syrians after the Netherlands invoked the UN Convention against Torture, in a bid to hold the Syrian government accountable for chemical weapons attacks on its own citizens.

"The step taken by the Netherlands is of critical importance and could offer victims a realistic prospect of truth, justice and accountability on the international level," the chambers said in a statement at the time.

A number of other steps were taken by the international community to limit the Al Assad family’s influence.

The administration of former US president Donald Trump  placed sanctions on members of the Al Assad family including Ms Al Assad and her parents, who still live in the UK, for consolidating power using charities run by her.

The sanctions included asset freezes and travel bans on Ms Al Assad and 17 other people and entities in relation to her and the Syrian President.

"Asma Al Assad has spearheaded efforts on behalf of the regime to consolidate economic and political power, including by her so-called charities and civil society organisations," Mike Pompeo, former US secretary of state said in December.

Former British prime minister Theresa May is known to have stripped 33 people from their British citizenship on terrorism grounds. Calls for the same fate to befall Ms Al Assad have been made for a number of years.

The Times newspaper, which first reported on the legal filing, said the proceedings could lead to Ms Al Assad losing her British citizenship, although it is unclear whether any decision on the matter would be implemented.