In the spring of 2011, sparked by the Arab Spring, the Syrian people revolted against the regime of its President, Bashar al-Asad. The protests were violently crushed by the government, and in the fall of 2011 the Free Syrian Army was created to provide armed support to the uprising. From 2012 onward, the conflict developed into a long-running sectarian civil war, with the international community providing military support to both parties. Gradually, terrorist organizations like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra became involved in the armed conflict as well. From the start of the conflict, a total number of approximately 280 Dutch nationals have travelled to Syria.

Case against Mustafa A.

At the end of 2020 the International Crimes Team received several reports about the Syrian national Mustafa A., who was by then residing in the Netherlands. A. had allegedly been a member of Liwa al-Quds in Al Nayrab, a refugee camp turned suburb near Aleppo, Syria. Liwa al-Quds is a militia affiliated with Syrian President Assad’s regime, and is being used by that regime to violently suppress demonstrations and arrest insurgents. Based on an expert report about Liwa al-Quds, the Public Prosecution Service concluded that the militia ought to be qualified as a criminal organization with the purpose to commit international crimes. Furthermore, the investigation team receives an report by an NGO, containing several statements by witnesses claiming that A. was directly and personally involved in the violent arrest of two civilians. Both civilians were then handed over to the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate, in whose detention facilities they were subjected to torture. After extensive investigation by the International Crimes Team and the National Office of the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service, A. was arrested on 24 May 2022 in Kerkrade, the Netherlands.

On 22 January 2024 the Hague District Court ruled that Liwa al-Quds was indeed a criminal organization whose purpose was to commit both bodily harm and pillage as war crimes, and deprivation of physical liberty as a crime against humanity. The Court also confirmed that Mustafa A. had had a leading role within the organization. Furthermore, the Court judged that A. was criminally involved in the arrest of one of the victims, and complicit to the torture that the victim had been subjected to in detention. Due to lack of sufficient evidence, A. was acquitted for his alleged involvement in the arrest and torture of the other victim. The Court sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

Both A. and the Prosecution Service have appealed the Court's decision. 


The Hague District Court, 22 January 2024

Case against Ahmad al-K.

In 2018 Dutch police and public prosecution service received information from their German counterparts about a Syrian national, currently residing in The Netherlands, who supposedly had been the commander of a battalion affiliated with Jabhat al Nusra. During the investigation that followed, several videos and media coverages where found that supported these allegations against the man, Ahmad al-K. Investigators also found another video, in which a captured Syrian military officer was seen to be taken to the Euphrates river, where he was – after a brief altercation – shot and killed. The suspicion arose that the battalion of Al-K. was responsible for this war crime. On 21 May 2019 Al-K. was therefore arrested in the Dutch village of Kapelle, on suspicion of membership of a terrorist organization and committing a war crime. At a later stage in the investigation another video emerged; the video, shot from a different angle, clearly shows Al-K. present at the scene of the crime. It can be seen that he takes a leading role during the execution and that he fires his gun several times in the direction of the victim. 

On 16 July 2021 the Hague District Court has judged that Al-K. was indeed criminally involved in the execution of a captured officer, a war crime. The Court also found, however, that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that Al-K.’s battalion was affiliated with Jabhat al Nusra, and therefore acquitted him on the count of membership of a terrorist organization. For his involvement in the execution, Al-K. was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Both Al-K. and the prosecution service have appealed against the decision. 

On 14 November 2023 the Hague Court of Appeal upheld Al-K.'s acquittal for membership of Jabhat al Nusra. It ruled, however, that the battalion in which Al-K. fulfilled a leading position, could itself be qualified as a terrorist organization. Hence, Al-K.'s prison sentence was increased to 23 years and 6 months. 


The Hague District Court, 16 July 2021

The Hague Court of Appeal, 14 November 2023 (ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2023:2191)

Case against Yousra L.

On 10 October 2019 Yousra L. was arrested by the police in her house in Uithoorn. She was allegedly one of the hosts of GreenB1rds, a ISIS-group on the social network Telegram. Through the Telegram-group, the ISIS ideology was spread and numerous calls were made for the armed Jihad. It caused the Dutch police and prosecution service to suspect L. of inciting terrorist crimes, distributing inciting jihadi scriptures and membership of a terrorist organization. Later, a war crime was added to that indictment, as it turned out that L. had distributed a video of captured victims being burned alive. L. had added her own very dehumanizing comments to the scene whilst distributing the video.

The Hague District Court, in its verdict of 29 June 2021, found Yousra L. guilty on all counts and sentenced her to 6 years in prison and detention under a hospital order including a compulsory psychiatric treatment. It was a unique verdict in two ways: firstly, it was the first time that somebody was convicted for committing a war crime from within the territory of The Netherlands. Secondly, for the first time the Court concluded that ISIS was not only a terrorist organization, but also a criminal organization with an aim to commit international core crimes. Yousra L. has appealed the Court's decision. 


The Hague District Court, 29 June 2021

Case against Ahmad al-Y.

Ahmad al-Y. entered the Netherlands as an asylum seeker in October 2019. On the basis of German information he was suspected of having been a member of the terrorist organization Ahrar al-Sham. The case against him evolved into a war crimes case when a YouTube video was found in which Al-Y. is seen while severely humiliating deceased Syrian soldiers. Al-Y. puts his body on the remains of one of the victims and makes a kicking movement towards another. Other armed men in the video are treating the deceased soldiers as trophies and spit on their remains. Al Y., while armed with an assault rifle, can furthermore be seen celebrating their deaths while referring to them as ‘dogs’. In the context of the Syrian armed conflict these acts constitute a war crime. On 22 October 2019 Ahmad al-Y. was arrested by the police. While Al-Y. was in custody, a second video emerged in which he is posing next to a captured adversary and is interrogating him in front of the camera together with other armed men. 

On 21 April 2021 the Hague District Court has found Al-Y. guilty of membership of a terrorist organization and of committing a war crime. By putting his foot on a corpse, making a kicking movement to another and by celebrating the deaths of the deceased adversaries while referring to them as ‘dogs’, he has committed outrages upon their dignity. Although the Court found the second video humiliating and degrading, it found that this incident did not reach the threshold for being qualified as an outrage upon the victim’s dignity. Regarding this second video, Al-Y. was therefore acquitted. For the other facts, the Court sentenced him to a total of 6 years in prison. On 6 December 2022, however, the Hague Court of Appeal ruled that both videos did not reach the aforementioned threshold, and acquitted Al-Y. from all core international crimes he was charged with. His sentence was hence lowered to 5 years and 4 months. The prosecution has appealed in cassation at the Supreme Court.


The Hague District Court, 21 April 2021

The Hague Court of Appeal, 6 December 2022

Case against Oussama A.

In the fall of 2014, Oussama A. travelled to Syria to join the terrorist organization of ISIS. Several Facebook accounts show pictures of A. carrying heavy weaponry. His personal details are also found on a ISIS payroll recovered by the United States. According to that payroll, A. has been active as a fighter for ISIS, specifically in its sniper battalion. In the fall of 2016, A. defects from ISIS, to join the Free Syrian Army (FSA). He stays with the FSA until November 2016, at which point A. flees the FSA camp and crosses the Syrian-Turkish border, where he is arrested.

At a certain point, the Dutch police gets hold of a picture circulating on social media. The picture shows A. as he stands – smiling – next to the crucified body of a man who was executed by ISIS. A. has disseminated the picture himself. Therefore, apart from membership of a terrorist organization, A. is also suspected of having committed a war crime. By posing next to a crucified body, while smiling, and subsequently disseminating that picture, A. has committed an outrage upon the personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, of a protected person. These flagrant and serious violations of human dignity are prohibited by common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (implemented in the Netherlands by article 6(1)(c) of the International Crimes Act).

On 23 July 2019 the The Hague District Court has found A. guilty of membership of a terrorist organization, preparatory acts for committing terrorist crimes, and of the war crime of committing outrages upon personal dignity. The Court thus sentenced him to 7.5 years in prison, of which 2.5 years specifically for the war crime. On 26 January 2021 the The Hague Court of Appeal lowered the overall verdict to 7 years of imprisonment, but upheld the verdict with respect to the war crime (2.5 years in prison). A. has appealed in cassation at the Supreme Court. 


The Hague District Court, 23 July 2019

The Hague Court of Appeal, 26 January 2021