08:10 GMT17 February 2020
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    The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) has claimed that it has “received confirmation” about a meeting between Italian representatives and a high-ranking Syrian official who’s believed to be close to President Bashar al-Assad.

    The ECCHR has filed a legal complaint to the European Commission against Italy, claiming that its former Interior Minister Marco Minniti and head of intelligence Alberto Manenti had held a secret meeting with the head of Syria’s national security agency Ali Mamlouk.

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    According to the human rights group, the talks, which are alleged to have taken place in early 2018, violated the union’s rules, namely, a travel ban that the EU introduced against Mamlouk back in 2011 because of his alleged involvement in violence against protesters in Syria.

    “The Council Decision governing these sanctions obliges all Member States to take ‘the necessary measures to prevent the entry into, or transit through, their territories of the persons responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria,” the statement read.

    The Italian government hasn’t commented on the claims so far.

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    Other human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Redress, stated they favored the decision to submit the complaint, calling on the commission to launch a formal infringement procedure against Italy, adding that the Syrian authorities need to be “held to account because justice shall not be set aside in the interest of intelligence cooperation.”

    Earlier this year unconfirmed reports suggested that Mamlouk had visited Rome to meet with Italian officials, but in its complaint, the ECCHR claimed that it had “received confirmation about the visit and the meetings by several government officials as well as journalistic sources.”

    The European Union imposed sanctions "against Syria and persons responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population" in May 2011 at the onset of protests, which later evolved into the ongoing civil war in the country.

    On May 28, 2018, the EU decided to extend sanctions against Syria until June 1, 2019.

    “Given the ongoing repression of the civilian population, the EU decided to maintain its restrictive measures against the Syrian regime and its supporters, in line with the EU strategy on Syria," the statement read.

    President Assad has on numerous occasions condemned the sanctions regime, saying that such restrictions on Syria have been even more damaging than terrorism.

    Syrian war, blacklist, secret, intelligence, human rights, protests, travel ban, sanctions, Marco Minniti, Ali Mamlouk, Italy, Syria
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