Dutch court convicts Syria pro-gov’t fighter on war crimes charges

Mustafa A, 35, is sentenced to 12 years in prison for war crimes in Syria by a district court in The Hague.

A district court in The Hague has convicted a former member of a Syrian pro-government armed group for complicity in torture and illegal arrest in Syria and sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

Judges ruled on Monday that the 35-year-old man, identified in court only as Mustafa A, was involved in the arrest of a man in 2012 in Syria. He later handed the man over to Syrian Air Force intelligence officials who ran a prison where he was tortured.

The court said the defendant was a leading member of the Liwa al-Quds, or the Jerusalem Brigade, an armed group comprised mostly of Palestinian refugees living in Syria and founded during the early years of Syria’s more than 12-year war.

Mustafa was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity for complicity in torture, inhumane treatment and illegal arrest and for membership of a criminal organisation.

Arrested in 2022, he had been living in the Netherlands since 2020 and had applied for asylum there.

During the trial’s first session in early November, judges quoted witnesses who said he was involved in their violent arrests and gave details of beatings and torture they endured in prison.

Back then, despite being asked numerous times for a reaction to the declarations and excerpts from his own police interviews and intercepted phone calls, Mustafa invoked his right to remain silent at every turn.

Monday’s judgement marks the first time a Dutch court has convicted someone for crimes committed while fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad’s government during the war in Syria. There have been a handful of similar convictions in Germany.

In recent years, Dutch courts have issued war crime convictions to several Syrian nationals who were members of opposition militias and other armed groups in Syria.

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