Dutch police arrest Syrian immigrant accused of war crimes and ties to pro-Assad militias

Dutch police arrest Syrian immigrant accused of war crimes and ties to pro-Assad militias
A man walks through rubble in Ariha, Syria, on Jan. 30, 2020. The attack, believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes backing a Syrian government offensive, also put a local hospital out of service, opposition activists and a rescue service said.Ghaith Alsayed/AP Photo
  • Dutch authorities arrested a Syrian asylum-seeker accused of war crimes on Tuesday.
  • Police said they received a tip in 2020 about the man, accused of being part of a pro-Assad militia.

Dutch authorities arrested a Syrian asylum-seeker on Tuesday accused of committing war crimes with a militia tied to Bashar Al Assad's regime.

The man, who was not named by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, was accused of being a part of Liwa al-Quds, a militia that coalesced in 2013 and supported the Assad government through 2016, fighting near Aleppo and the northern border with Turkey.

"In January 2013, the suspect, together with other members of his unit, the Syrian military security service, and the intelligence service of the air force, allegedly arrested a civilian in his home in the al-Nayrab camp," Dutch police said in a press release. "The civilian was mistreated during the arrest and later taken to a Syrian Air Force intelligence prison, where he is said to have been tortured."

In the press release, the authorities added that they received a tip about the suspect in 2020, and launched an investigation.

"Never before has anyone been arrested under these suspicions in the Netherlands who allegedly sided with the Syrian regime," the release said.


According to Amnesty International, the arrest marks the fifth war crimes case in the Netherlands related to the Syrian war. One Syrian asylum-seeker was convicted.

"This arrest is another critical moment in the long campaign to secure justice for Syrians," Amnesty International UK's Crisis Response Manager Kristyan Benedict told Insider. "With domestic criminal prosecutions in Syria inconceivable and no pathway for referring cases to the international criminal court, it is up to states worldwide to urgently invest far more resources to ensure genuine justice for Syrians."

The arrest follows a landmark war crimes trial in Koblenz, Germany which resulted in the conviction of two former Syrian intelligence officers.

Both justice efforts have been heralded due to universal jurisdiction, an international legal mechanism whereby Syrians and others living in countries such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden can submit complaints to the state's investigative war-crimes units for crimes they say Assad loyalists, or others in Syria, committed.

Eyad al-Gharib, a former low-ranking intelligence official, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison on February 24, 2021, after being found guilty of "aiding and abetting 30 cases of crimes against humanity."And Anwar Raslan, a former higher-ranking intelligence official and the second defendant in the trial, was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was found guilty in January of being the co-perpetrator of torture and overseeing the killings of 27 people, along with charges related to rape and sexual assault of detainees.


"The [Dutch] arrest would not have come about without those Syrians who dared to share their stories and Syrian human rights organizations who have doggedly pursued justice, truth, and reparation for years," Benedict added.

The suspect will appear in court at The Hague for a hearing on Friday.