International Humanitarian Law Violations in Syria

Case against suspect arrested in Kerkrade

Case Background / Context

A suspect was arrested in the Dutch town of Kerkrade in May 2022 by the International Crimes Team of the Dutch police after they were tipped off that the man had been a member of a prominent Syrian militia, Liwa al-Quds. The militia fought on the side of President Assad's regime in the Syrian civil war, which has been raging in the country since 2011. The 34-year old man is also suspected of having been involved in a violent arrest of a Syrian citizen on January 28, 2013.

According to the Dutch Prosecution Service, the citizen was taken from his home by militia members of Liwa al-Quds, assisted by the Syrian military security service and the intelligence service of the air force. During the arrest, the citizen was abused and later brought to the nearby prison of the Syrian Air Force, where he was allegedly tortured. The suspect denies his presence at the crime scenes, but does not deny his membership of the alleged criminal organization Liwa al-Quds. He claims he did not do anything wrong and “only fought against terrorism and protected his family and his people."

The first pro forma hearing of the case took place on 12th August 2022. Although the case was not substantively discussed during the pro forma hearing, the Public Prosecutor's Office presented their suspicions, namely:
1. The suspect's membership in Liwa al-Quds,
2. His presence at the crime scenes, including that he was conscious of the violence used against the citizen and that the citizen would eventually be detained
3. His presence during the torture of the citizen in the Syrian Air Force’s prison.

This is the first time that a member of an organization linked to the Assad regime appears before a Dutch judge. There have been indications for some time, and worries from the Syrian community in the Netherlands, that Syrian asylum seekers in the Netherlands include individuals who were part of the much feared pro-Assad militias in Syria. This case is especially important because it could set a precedent for future cases against supporters of Assad's regime in the Netherlands, should the court decide that Liwa al-Quds is a criminal organization.

How to attend a hearing

Most trials in the Netherlands are public, meaning that individuals that are not party to the proceedings can attend the hearing. A judge might, however, decide for the trial to be held behind closed doors or the public gallery might already be full by which people may not follow the hearing in court, but this does not happen often.

The address of the court is: Prins Clauslaan 60, 2595 AJ Den Haag.

If you would like to attend any of the hearings, it is of importance to bring proof of identity (such as your passport, (Dutch) drivers license or residence permit). Additionally, various courts have so-called house rules. The court of Den Haag prohibits, for example, any form of recording within the building as well as wearing face-covering clothes (unless this is necessary for the safety or health of the person concerned).

The pre-trial hearing will take place at the District Court of The Hague on October 31st at 9 am. In view of security measures it is advised to be there 20 minutes in advance. The Nuhanovic Foundation will provide updates on pre-trial and trial hearings as and when they are announced.