Syria replaces security chief

Syria’s government has replaced one of its top security chiefs Jamil Hassan, a subject of Western sanctions, pro-Damascus social media sites reported.

Hassan, who is in his mid 60s, has been replaced as head of Syrian Air Force Intelligence by his deputy Ghassan Ismail, said Tartous Now News Network and Homs News Network on Sunday. There was no official comment on Syrian state media.

A U.S. Treasury sanctions designation for Hassan in 2011 described Air Force Intelligence as one of Syria’s four main security agencies.

Syria’s pervasive security agencies have played a major role for President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the conflict in 2011 by rooting out and detaining those suspected of links with the opposition.

Rights group Amnesty International says more than 80,000 people have been subjected to enforced disappearance by the Syrian government since the start of the conflict.

Last year German prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for Hassan, accusing him of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” for his part in Syria’s war and the mass protests that preceded it.

The prosecutors accused him of overseeing the torture, rape and murder of “at least hundreds of people between 2011 and 2013”.

Syria’s government denies any widespread abuses by its security forces.

In an interview with Britain’s Independent newspaper in 2016, Hassan was quoted as saying the government should have used more force against the opposition at the start of the war.

Comparing it to the crushing of a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama in 1982, he was quoted as saying “if we did what we did in Hama at the beginning of the crisis, we would have saved a lot of Syrian blood”.