Partial confirmation of Majdi Nema’s (Islam Alloush) indictment before the Paris Criminal Court

Paris, December 11, 2023 – On November 20, 2023, the Investigating Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal overturned part of the charges against Majdi Nema (Islam Alloush), former spokesperson and leader of the Syrian armed group Jaysh al-Islam. Nonetheless, it confirmed his indictment before the Paris Criminal Court for complicity in war crimes (recruitment of child soldiers) and participation in a group formed for the purpose of preparing war crimes. In July 2023, the investigating judges of the Paris War Crimes Unit sent Majdi Nema to trial before the Paris Criminal Court. He was charged with complicity in war crimes, complicity in enforced disappearances and participation in a group formed for the purpose of preparing war crimes. Following an appeal by the defence, the Investigating Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal handed down its decision on 20 November 2023.

The Investigating Chamber has rightly accepted what the civil parties have been arguing since the beginning of this case, namely the existence of sufficient charges against Majdi Nema for his involvement in the crimes of enlisting minors and participating in a group formed to prepare war crimes,” said Marc Bailly, lawyer for the civil parties. 

However, without calling into question the responsibility of Jaysh al-Islam in the commission of these crimes, the judges ruled out the other three offences for which Majdi Nema had been indicted, namely complicity in enforced disappearances, and complicity in the war crimes of willful killings, wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health, and  deliberate attacks against civilians. The lawyers for the civil parties appealed this decision to the French Court of Cassation. Majdi Nema’s public trial before the Paris Criminal Court will be scheduled once the Supreme Court has rendered its decision on these charges.

With regard to the offence of enforced disappearance, the Investigating Chamber stated that “it is clear from the information and the numerous testimonies gathered that Jaysh al-Islam must be considered responsible for the disappearance of the four human rights defenders.” However, the judges considered that the criterion of being an agent of the State or an individual acting with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of the State, within the meaning of the United Nations Convention against Enforced Disappearances, from which the offence is defined in French law, was not met in the case of the Jaysh al-Islam group. 

The Court found that the legal criteria for qualifying the offence of enforced disappearance were not met in this case, which appears to be in contradiction with the current state of the law. We have therefore lodged an appeal in cassation against this decision“, said Clémence Bectarte, lawyer for the civil parties and coordinator of the FIDH Litigation Action Group.

For the first time, a court has clearly established the responsibility of the Jaysh al-Islam group in the disappearance of the emblematic figures of the Syrian revolution Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Al-Hamada, Samira Khalil, and Nazem Hamadi,” said Mazen Darwish, Director General of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). “This serves as further motivation to continue in our pursuit of justice for all those forcibly disappeared in Syria.”

With regard to the offences of complicity in deliberate attacks on civilians, complicity in willful killings and willful causing of great suffering, and abducting and sequestration, the judges recognized the role of Jaysh al-Islam in these abuses. They pointed out that the numerous testimonies and elements of the judicial investigation made it possible to establish the group’s responsibility for these crimes. However, they considered that Majdi Nema’s role as an accomplice in the commission of these crimes had not been sufficiently established at the end of the judicial investigation.

In January 2020, after a complaint filed by the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH), Majdi Nema was arrested in Marseille and indicted for complicity in war crimes and enforced disappearances that occurred between 2013 and 2016.