- A former high-ranking member of a pro-Syrian government militia, identified as Mustafa A., has been convicted by a Dutch court.
- He was sentenced to 12 years in prison for illegal detention and complicity in torture related to the 2013 arrest and inhumane treatment of a civilian.
- The trial took place in The Hague District Court based on universal jurisdiction, allowing prosecution for international offenses.
A Dutch court convicted Monday a former high-ranking member of a pro-Syrian government militia of illegal detention and complicity in torture, sentencing him to 12 years in prison.
The defendant, identified only as Mustafa A. in line with Dutch privacy laws, was found guilty in the 2013 arrest and inhumane treatment of a civilian while serving in the pro-Damascus Liwa al-Quds militia.
The 35-year-old was tried in The Hague District Court based on universal jurisdiction, a legal principle that allows suspects to be prosecuted for international offenses such as war crimes even if they are committed in another country.
The court called the militia a criminal organization whose members “were guilty of war crimes such as looting and violence against civilians and unlawful deprivation of liberty of civilians.”
A. was specifically convicted of illegal detention and complicity in the torture of a Palestinian man who was dragged out of his home at a refugee camp near the city of Aleppo and handed to the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Service, whose members subjected him to repeated torture, the court said.
He was acquitted in the arrest and torture of a second Palestinian man the same night because the court said it could not establish his personal involvement.
The defendant was granted asylum in the Netherlands in 2020 and was arrested after judicial authorities received tips that he had been a member of the Liwa al-Quds militia.
At an earlier hearing, A. denied the charges and said he was in the militia only to fight terrorists and defend his family and people. During his trial, he repeatedly declined to answer questions.
The Netherlands has arrested several suspects from Syria for alleged atrocities in their country’s civil war. The Netherlands and Canada also have jointly accused Damascus of a years-long campaign of “institutionalized” torture against Syrians in a case filed at the Hague-based International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ highest court.
The Netherlands is not alone in seeking justice for crimes in Syria.
A German court convicted a former member of Assad’s secret police for facilitating the torture of prisoners. Another German court convicted a Syrian man of torturing captives while he was a member of the Islamic State group in Syria.
France, meanwhile, has issued arrest warrants for three high-ranking Syrian intelligence officers accused of complicity in crimes against humanity in the deaths of a father and son who disappeared a decade ago.