Syrian man living in the Netherlands accused of torture and sexual violence against Syrian civilians

A 55-year-old Syrian man was arrested on Friday 8 December 2023 in the Dutch town of Druten in the province of Gelderland, on suspicion of international crimes committed in Syria. He is suspected, among other things, of sexual violence as a crime against humanity. It is the first time that someone in the Netherlands has been accused of this grave crime.

Based on the investigation by the International Crimes Team (TIM) of the Dutch National Police, the man is suspected of being head of the interrogation department of the National Defence Force (NDF) in Salamiyah Syria in 2013 and 2014. The NDF is a paramilitary group consisting of many local pro-regime militias, fighting on the side of the Syrian regime. The suspicion is that from this position the man committed acts of torture and sexual violence against civilians.

Crimes against humanity

He is charged with complicity in torture in an official capacity with specific intent, complicity in torture as a crime against humanity and complicity in various forms of sexual violence as a crime against humanity. Crimes against humanity are crimes committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population.

Pro-regime militia

In the Syrian civil war, which has been raging in the country since 2011, the government of President Assad is brutally suppressing civilian protests. The Syrian army is supported by paramilitary groups, that are used to fill soldier shortages and do the dirty work. Syrian civilians are being arrested on a large scale by Syrian security services and pro-regime militias.

In the Netherlands since 2021

The suspect arrived in the Netherlands in July 2021 and received a temporary asylum permit. Last year, he and his family settled in the town of Druten. The International Crimes Team (TIM) tracked him down shortly after his arrival in the Netherlands, following a tip that a person with a comparable name had been the chief interrogator at the local branch of the NDF in Salamiyah, and that this man was now living in the Netherlands.

The suspect will be brought before the examining magistrate on Monday 11 December.