Syrian living in NL to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity

Statue of justice.

A 55-year-old Syrian man has been arrested in the Gelderland town of Druten for crimes against humanity, including torture and rape, the public prosecution office has said.

The man is alleged to have headed an interrogation unit belonging to the National Defence Force (NDF) in Salamiyah in Syria in 2013 and 2014 when he carried out the alleged crimes.

The NDF is a paramilitary organisation made up of local groups who are fighting on the side of the Syrian regime. According to the prosecution office, the NDF is doing the Syrian army’s “dirty work”.

The man had a temporary residency permit since 2021 and moved to Druten last year. The special Dutch police unit tracked him down following a tip off about a man with a similar name having been the main interrogator at the NDF in Salamiyah and who was now living in the Netherlands.

A prosecution for crimes against humanity, defined by the United Nations as “acts  committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack” is a first for the Netherlands, the prosecution office said.

The man will appear in court on Monday.

The man is not the first Syrian national to face prosecution in the Netherlands. Earlier this month the public prosecution service told judges in The Hague they want a 17-year sentence for a Syrian refugee accused of committing war crimes as part of a pro-regime militia.

The 35-year-old, identified only as Mustafa A, sought asylum in the Netherlands in 2020. He was arrested last year after the immigration service received a tip that he had arrested and tortured civilians.

And in November, a Syrian man who has been a refugee in the Netherlands since 2014 has been jailed for 23.5 years on appeal for his role in the killing of a Syrian army officer and for terrorism.

Ahmad al K was given a 20-year sentence at his original trial in 2021 but was found not guilty at the time of being involved in a terrorist organisation. Both the defence and public prosecution department had appealed against the lower court sentence.

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