Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression-SCM
International Federation for Human Rights-FIDH
Ligue des droits de l’Homme-LDH
Syria/Justice : A Senior Jaysh al-Islam Official Arrested in France and Indicted for War crimes, Torture and Enforced Disappearance
Paris, 31 January 2020 — Wednesday’s arrest of Islam Alloush, former spokesperson for Jaysh al-Islam (“Army of Islam”), followed by his indictment today by the war crimes unit of the Paris Tribunal for war crimes, torture, enforced disappearance, and complicity in these crimes, marks the opening of the first investigation into crimes committed by the rebel armed group. Mainly active in Eastern Ghouta, in the suburbs of Damascus, Jaysh al-Islam has been regularly accused of committing international crimes against the civilians living under its rule, starting in 2011 until 2018. The group is also suspected of having abducted, detained and tortured human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, Wael Hamada co-founder of the local coordination committees-LCC, and two of their colleagues, political activist Samira Al-Khalil and human rights lawyer Nazem Al-Hammadi (The Douma 4). They were kidnapped in December from the shared office of the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) and the Local Development and Small Project Support (LDSPS) Office in Douma.
On 26 June 2019, our organisations filed a complaint against Jaysh al-Islam for crimes committed by the group. Since then we have accompanied about 20 victims and their families, including families of the Douma 4, in their search for judicial truth and justice.
Following this complaint, Islam Alloush’s arrest on 29 January in Marseille, followed by an indictment, paves the way for the first investigation of the rebel armed group’s crimes. Majdi Mustafa Ne’ma, known by his nom de guerre Islam Alloush, was the spokesperson and a senior official of Jaysh al-Islam. The group numbered up to more than 20,000 fighters and carried out a reign of terror in the rebel areas it controlled, mainly in the Eastern Ghouta, until it lost control over them in April 2018.
“Over nine years, the conflict has stolen hundreds of thousands of lives and claimed millions of other victims. For all these people, there can be no fragmented, selective, politically motivated justice, based on whether the perpetrators of international crimes belong to this or that group. In a conflict where crimes have been – and continue to be – extremely well documented, the fight against impunity must target all parties guilty of war crimes or crimes against humanity, this is the only guarantee for sustainable peace for Syria” said Mazen Darwish, SCM President.
According to information gathered by SCM, FIDH and LDH, Islam Alloush, former captain of the governemental Syrian Armed Forces, then became a senior official and spokesman for Jaysh al-Islam, close to its leader Zahran Alloush, who founded the group starting in 2011 and headed it until his death in a bombing raid in 2015. Islam Alloush was also allegedly involved in the forced enlistment of children in the armed group. Several victims also directly incriminate him for kidnapping and torture.
The complaint filed in June 2019 was built on over three years of documentation by SCM and FIDH on the crimes perpetrated by Jaysh al Islam: summary executions, kidnappings, and the systematic use of torture against men, women and children. The group targeted people suspected of complicity with the regime, but also ordinary civilians, accused of not applying the shariah imposed by the group rigorously enough, or because they belonged to religious minorities.
“The cooperation between SCM, FIDH and the LDH has resulted in the issuing by French judges of international arrest warrants, in October 2018, fort three high-ranking Syrian regime officials: Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud. They are charged with complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes, in connection with the disappearance, torture and death of dual Syrian-French nationals, Mazen and Patrick Dabbagh. Father and son were arrested by Syrian Air Force Intelligence officers in November 2013 and detained at the notorious Mezzeh military airport. Obeïda Dabbagh, FIDH, LDH, and SCM initiated the case in October 2016” said Patrick Baudouin, lawyer and Honorary President of FIDH.
“ The indictment of one of the former top officials of Jaysh al-Islam, following the opening of judicial investigations or trials against members of the Bashar al-Assad regime and against radicalist islamists groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda, opens a new chapter in the quest to prosecute international crimes committed in Syria since 2011” said Michel Tubiana, lawyer and Honorary President of LDH.
“We have no doubt that this investigation will shed new light on the serious abuses committed by Jaysh al-Islam, as well as on the disappearance of prominent lawyer and human rights activist Razan Zaitouneh, her husband Waël, and their two colleagues. Razan’s peaceful commitment, righteousness and values remain emblems of the hopes raised by the early Syrian democratic uprising. The Syrian people deserve to know what finally happened to her,” said Clémence Bectarte, Lawyer and Coordinator of FIDH’s Litigation Action Group.
SCM: [email protected] / +33 6 03 19 50 20