Dutch Police Arrests a Suspect Accused of Leading Terrorist Groups in Syria

PARIS (January 17, 2023) – Based on the legal complaint submitted by the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), a person suspected to have been a security commander for the Islamic State (IS) in southern Damascus between the end of 2014 till 2018 has been arrested by the Dutch police. The 37-year-old suspect who currently resides in the city of Arkel, was detained on Tuesday 17 January 2023.

The complaint file submitted by SCM to the War Crimes unit in the Netherlands included a set of evidence and testimonies confirming the suspect’s membership in IS and his leadership position among the IS’ security forces in southern Damascus. These evidences and testimonies confirm his responsibility for a wide range of grave violations, such as murder, kidnapping and torture, whose victims were activists, civilians, and opponents of IS.

The Strategic Litigation Project (SLP) team at SCM began preparing a complaint file after receiving information from activists in southern Damascus. Using open sources and networks of relations and collaborators, SLP’s preliminary research proved the suspect’s role in IS in southern Damascus area and the violations committed by them against civilians trapped in the area. SLP was able to document 11 testimonies that focused on the suspect’s affiliation to IS, his leadership position in the region, and the violations he committed during his time. The investigation conducted by SCM revealed that the suspect joined IS in the period between 2014 and 2015 after separating from the Al-Nusra Front, in which he held a similar position.

Following the receipt of the legal complaint submitted by SCM, the International Crimes Team of the Dutch Police and the Public Prosecution Office began an investigation into charges of holding leadership positions in al-Nusra Front and IS and his involvement in committing war crimes during that period in southern Damascus, specifically Yarmouk camp and the surrounding areas.

Lawyer Mazen Darwish, General Director of SCM, emphasized that holding criminals who committed grave crimes in Syria accountable is a rightful demand for the victims, regardless of their affiliation. He also added that such step is not only a necessary condition for building a sustainable peace in Syria, but also a guarantee for protecting the security and peace of civilians around the world. Such work would not have been possible without the courage of the victims and the continuous work of the Syrian civil society towards justice.

The Dutch authorities announced that the suspect would be presented to an investigating judge in The Hague on Friday, January 20, 2023. SCM stresses that all cases filed, according to the universal jurisdiction, or according to the jurisdiction outside the region, do not constitute a substitute for launching a national path of transitional justice that ends the state of impunity, and guarantees the rights of the victims and delivers justice.