France is to begin the process of stripping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of his Legion of Honor award, the Elysée Palace has told ABC News.
It has announced that a ‘disciplinary procedure’ has begun which will culminate in the award being revoked.
The Legion of Honor, which is France’s highest distinction, was awarded to Assad by former French President Jacques Chirac in 2001.
President Bashar a-Assad of Syria was awarded the Legion of Honour (right) in 2001
France wants to reduce the number of Legion of Honour medals it hands out to no more than 2,000 annually – only 100 were handed out to mark Bastille Day last July, when usually there are about 500-600 recipients
File photo taken on June 27, 2001 of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad being awarded the French Legion of Honour medal by French president Jacques Chirac at the Elysee Palace, during the Syrian leader’s State Visit to Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron is determined to reform the French honours system
French President Jacques Chirac (right) is greeted by his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad upon his arrival Damascus airport on 20 October 2002. Chirac arrived in the Syrian capital from the 9th Francophone summit in Beirut
The Syrian President was treated as a distinguished guest during his state 2001 state visit to France
The decision to withdraw the honour can only be made by a French President – but it is well known that Emmanuel Macron is eager to reform the country’s most prestigious – but often controversial – award.
The move comes less than a week after France participated in missile and air strikes against Syrian targets in response to President Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.
Preside Assad’s award was given to him during a state visit to Paris – but news of him receiving it was not made public until eight years later.
It is not the first time since his election last May that Macron has decided to revoke the Legion of Honor award.
In October 2017 he declared that he has started the process of stripping the award bestowed to Harvey Weinstein following allegations of sexual harassment and rape, which he has denied.
Each year about 3,000 people receive the honour, which was created by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1802 to reward distinguished citizens and military valour.
President Macron has said that it is imperative to return the award to its ‘original spirit’ by restricting the number handed out and by ensuring that they are based on merit.
Former US cyclist Lance Armstrong lost his Legion of Honor award in 2014 after admitting that he he had taken drugs during his seven Tour de France wins between 1999 and 2005.
Sir Paul McCartney, Barbara Streisand and Liza Minnelli have all received the top French honour.