Elysée confirms al-Assad will lose Légion d’honneur

La Légion d’Honneur is the highest accolade the President can give

France has begun proceedings to retract the Légion d’honneur award from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the Elysée has confirmed.

It comes three days after a coordinated air strike on Syrian chemical weapons centres by France, Britain and the United States, in response to reports of a chemical weapons attack in west Ghouta, near Damas.

Mr al-Assad is accused of using chemical weapons on his own people, and of allowing and aiding a secret chemicals weapons research programme to thrive in Syria.

Mr al-Assad was given the Légion d’honneur - the highest honour that France can give to a public figure, full name Médaille de Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur - in 2001 by then-President Jacques Chirac.

The award was given during an official visit to France, soon after Mr al-Assad succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad to become Syrian president.

Bashar al-Assad first received the award in 2001 (Kremlin.ru / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0)

Now, the Elysée has confirmed that “a disciplinary procedure of retraction” has begun, as the Syrian president has been found to have “committed acts that are contrary to” the award's principles.

Since 2010, measures have been in place that allow the Elysée to retract a Légion d’honneur more easily, if the holder is found to have committed such acts.

Other high-profile names to have been stripped of their honours include American cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was found to have lied about doping throughout his cycling career; and high-fashion designer John Galliano, who lost his award in 2011 after being found guilty of making anti-Semitic comments, which were caught on camera while Mr Galliano was drunk in a Parisien cafe in the Marais.

The designer later went on to be handed a suspended sentence, plus a fine of €6,000. He was also fired from his job as artistic director of fashion house Dior.

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