French judges send Majdi Nema to trial before the Criminal Court for complicity in war crimes and enforced disappearances

Paris, 19 July 2023 – In an order issued today, the investigative judges of the Paris War Crimes Unit decided to send Majdi Nema, alias Islam Alloush, former leader of the Syrian militia group Jaysh al-Islam, to trial. He is charged with complicity in war crimes and enforced disappearances committed between 2013 and 2016. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), and Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH) welcome this landmark decision towards a trial that should shed light on and bring justice for the disappearance of emblematic figures of the Syrian revolution as well as for crimes committed against the civilian population in the Eastern Ghouta. 

Majdi Nema’s indictment before the Criminal Court paves the way, for the first time in France, for a trial relating to crimes committed by the Syrian militia group Jaysh al-Islam, which operated in Eastern Ghouta between 2013 and 2018. Majdi Nema is accused of complicity in war crimes amongst which the enlistment of children and willful killings. 

This decision is the result of many years of fighting for the recognition of the crimes committed by Jaysh al Islam in Syria and the role played by its leaders in their perpetration.” said Clémence Bectarte, lawyer for FIDH and the civil parties.

“Under the guise of fighting the regime, this group committed numerous abuses against the civilian population, and did so with complete impunity“, added Marc Bailly, lawyer for the civil parties.

Majdi Nema is also accused of being complicit in the enforced disappearance, in December 2013, of Razan Zaitouneh, human rights lawyer, co-founder of the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) and member of SCM, of Wael Hamada, human rights defender, and of their colleagues Samira Al-Khalil, political activist, and Nazem Al Hammadi, human rights lawyer.

We hope that this trial will shed light on the disappearance of Razan Zaitouneh and her colleagues, who were all emblematic figures of the Syrian revolution. They disappeared while documenting the crimes committed by the regime and rebel groups”, said Mazen Darwish, Secretary General of the FIDH and General Director of SCM, a civil party to the proceedings.

In January 2020, following a complaint lodged by FIDH, SCM, and the LDH, Majdi Nema was arrested in Marseille, and subsequently charged with war crimes, torture and enforced disappearance, and complicity in these crimes, by the French War Crimes Unit.

As Patrick Baudouin, President of LDH, explains, “following the scheduling of the trial of Jamil Hassan, Ali Mamlouk and Abdel Salam Mahmoud in the Dabbagh case, which will take place from 21 to 24 May 2024, the Majdi Nema trial would constitute a new step forward for French justice, which must be applauded regarding crimes committed in Syria.”

Other cases involving crimes committed by the Syrian regime are currently being investigated by the French War Crimes Unit. 

The defense now has ten days to appeal the judges’ order to send Majdi Nema to trial.