| 24 April 2024, Wednesday |

Netherlands sentences alleged ex-Syria opposition commander to jail

A former commander of a prominent Syrian militant group has been sentenced to six years in prison in the Netherlands on charges of committing war crimes and terrorism.

The 31-year-old man, identified in Dutch media only as AI Y or Ahmad AI Y, was arrested in October 2019 after approaching a centre for asylum seekers in the Dutch city of Ter Apel. He was then reportedly flagged and identified as a former commander in the Syrian militant group Ahrar Al-Sham back in 2015, prompting his immediate arrest.

According to the Dutch Public Prosecution, the man is suspected of having committed war crimes while being a member of the group from March 2015 to November 2015, specifically by posing with a dead body and kicking another body in the city of Hama.

In that video, which was posted on YouTube, he is allegedly heard cursing his dead enemies as “dogs” and later sings to celebrate their deaths.

The Dutch Public Prosecution initially demanded a ten-year sentence for the suspect, but a court this week ruled that he be given a six-year sentence instead. The man’s alleged actions are listed under Dutch law as violations of the personal dignity of war victims, and under the Geneva Conventions they can be prosecuted within the Netherlands despite having been committed abroad.

The prosecution of the suspected former commander comes at a time when European states have been increasingly cracking down on both former Syrian regime operatives and former opposition militants who later fled Syria and sought asylum in Europe.

In January last year, France also arrested  a prominent wanted member of another opposition militant group named Jaysh Al-Islam.