[JURIST] French police on Tuesday arrested in Strasbourg [Le Monde report] seven men who were suspected of fighting alongside rebels within Syria. The arrest was conducted by French Police special unit Recherche Assistance Intervention Dissuasion (RAID) [official website], and no weapons nor explosive devices were found in possession of the suspects. Upon their arrest a formal investigation into the suspected terrorists began due to suspicions of criminal conspiracy related to terrorism. The seven men are believed to have participated last year in the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [official website]. France has estimated [Thomas Reuters report] that 285 of their citizens are currently fighting alongside rebels within Syria. Under new French policies any citizen who returns from fighting in Syria faces charges of being a part of a terrorist organization and subject to arrest.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has persisted for over three years. The conflict has been highlighted by countless human rights violations including the use of chemical weaponry, which has created mounting pressure among the international community to find an end to the conflict. After initially failing to meet its deadline, Syria released a 100-day plan [JURIST report] in February to dispose of their chemical weapons. The plan was made pursuant to an agreement between the Syrian Foreign Ministry, the UN and the OPCW to dispose of chemical weapons [JURIST report] within the country, made earlier that month. In December, the UN team investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria reported that it found credible evidence [JURIST report] that chemical weapons were used on numerous occasions throughout the civil war. The investigation was undertaken in response to allegations of large-scale sarin gas attacks [JURIST report on civilian-controlled areas. Some have argued that the gravity of the war crimes committed in Syria is sufficient to justify referral [JURIST op-ed] to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website].