Syrian found guilty of war crimes over soldier's execution

Dutch court sentences former fighter to 20 years in prison

A Syrian man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for war crimes over his role in the execution of a government soldier during the country's civil war.

A Dutch court said Ahmad al Khedr, also known as Abu Khuder, was a member of the Nusra Front rebel group, at one point an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

Judges said his voice could be heard in a video of the execution of a captured, bloodied Syrian soldier who was shot on the banks of the River Euphrates in 2012.

"Executing an imprisoned foe by the accused is not only murder but also an egregious violation of the written and unwritten rules of international humanitarian law and universal human rights," the judges wrote in their 40-page verdict.

The case against Al Khedr was brought under Dutch universal jurisdiction laws, under which national courts can try suspects for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed on foreign soil as long as the accused lives in the Netherlands.

Al Khedr has been in the Netherlands since 2014, where he was granted temporary asylum.

The charges were based on witness testimonies provided by German police, Dutch authorities said.

It is the third time a Dutch court has convicted a Syrian citizen of war crimes during the civil war, previously handing down prison terms of up to seven years.

Al Khedr's sentence was more severe than those of previous cases with Syrian fighters because he was found to have participated personally in the execution.

In the absence of a tribunal for atrocities in Syria, where an estimated 400,000 people have been killed in a decade of civil war that has driven millions more from their homes, European courts have tried a handful of suspects. But most alleged crimes have gone unpunished.

Updated: July 16th 2021, 2:59 PM