Syrian Brigadier-General stands trial in Sweden – Civil Rights Defenders will report from the courtroom

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On Monday, a trial will commence at Stockholm District Court against a former Brigadier-General in the Syrian army. The General is charged with aiding and abetting war crimes in Syria, making him the most high-ranking military official from Syria to be put on trial accused of core international crimes in a European court. Additionally, the trial is the first in Europe to concern conduct of hostilities in Syria, specifically focusing on indiscriminate attacks targeting civilians. Civil Rights Defenders, will be present to monitor the proceedings and will publish reports in both English and Arabic.

“Trials concerning war crimes committed in Syria are crucial for victims to have their voice heard and to receive redress. Having such crimes recognised by an independent court can also be significant for others affected by the attacks who are unable to participate as plaintiffs in this trial,” says Aida Samani, Senior Legal Advisor at Civil Rights Defenders.

Entire neighbourhoods levelled to the ground

At the time of the crimes, the accused served as a Brigadier-General and head of an armament division in the Syrian army. He is charged with aiding and abetting war crimes for his involvement in indiscriminate attacks in and around the cities of Homs and Hama in Syria between January 1 and July 20, 2012. These attacks caused extensive damage to civilian property, with entire neighbourhoods levelled, and resulted in thousands of civilians being injured or killed.

According to the indictment, the attacks were carried out in violation of the principles of international humanitarian law, including distinction, caution, and proportionality. This means that the Syrian army, in conducting its attacks, did not distinguish between civilians and combatants or between civilian property and military targets, and that the attacks were disproportionate.

Systematic attacks against the civilian population

“Since the start of the uprising in Syria in March 2011, the Syrian army has employed a strategy of besieging cities and conducting indiscriminate attacks on them in order to crush the opposition. This has resulted in significant loss of life and extensive damage to civilian property, in violation of international humanitarian law,” says Aida Samani, Senior Legal Advisor at Civil Rights Defenders.

The indictment is primarily based on witness testimonies, reports, and official documents from the Syrian government, as well as information provided by the defendant during interrogations. During the trial, eight plaintiffs affected by the attacks and several witnesses will testify.

The trial is expected to take place between April 15 and May 21, with a verdict expected a few weeks later.

Civil Rights Defenders reports from the trial

Civil Rights Defenders has worked extensively with the issue of impunity for war crimes and other core international crimes committed in Syria and have filed complaints with the police’s war crimes unit in Sweden. For this trial, our experts on international crimes are monitoring the proceedings in the courtroom every day and will publish weekly trial reports in both English and Arabic. Follow the coverage here.

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