Belgium Launches Syria Violations Probe, Detains War Crimes Suspect

The trial of former Syrian intelligence officers Iyad al-Ghareeb and Anwar Raslan in Koblenz, Germany. AFP file photo
The trial of former Syrian intelligence officers Iyad al-Ghareeb and Anwar Raslan in Koblenz, Germany. AFP file photo
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Belgium Launches Syria Violations Probe, Detains War Crimes Suspect

The trial of former Syrian intelligence officers Iyad al-Ghareeb and Anwar Raslan in Koblenz, Germany. AFP file photo
The trial of former Syrian intelligence officers Iyad al-Ghareeb and Anwar Raslan in Koblenz, Germany. AFP file photo

Belgium has joined other European nations in pursuing perpetrators of war crimes in Syria since 2011.

Belgian police arrested Hussein A. based on a warrant charging him with committing crimes against humanity.

He has been remanded in custody awaiting the issuance of formal charges, a process that may take several months.

Hussein A. served as a commander in a militia affiliated with the “National Defense Committees” in the Syrian Salamiyah region near Hama.

He was responsible for the arrest and handover of detainees to branches of the military security apparatus of the Syrian army in Hama.

Syrian lawyer Anwar Al-Bunni has prepared the case against Hussein A. and submitted it to the Belgian prosecutor general.

Al-Bunni stated that the accused delivered detainees to centers, knowing that they would be subjected to torture.

Moreover, Al-Bunni added that the case of Hussein A. is linked to another case involving an individual arrested two months ago in the Netherlands.

This individual was also a commander in a militia affiliated with the National Defense Committees and remains in custody awaiting formal charges and trial.

Al-Bunni clarified that the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research has managed to gather more than 10 witnesses in the case of Hussein A., all of whom are victims who have experienced arrest and torture.

In 2015, Hussein A. came to Belgium for a family reunion and applied for Belgian citizenship, but the decision is still pending.

This case is Belgium’s first against individuals accused of war crimes in Syria. It’s part of a broader effort led by al-Bunni, who is compiling cases against those fleeing Syria for Europe.

Al-Bunni relies on the principle of universal jurisdiction, allowing Western countries to prosecute criminals for crimes committed abroad.

Germany, followed by France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and now Belgium, all have initiated legal proceedings against former Syrian officers.



Stockholm Accuses Iran of Using Criminals in Sweden to Target Israel

A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
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Stockholm Accuses Iran of Using Criminals in Sweden to Target Israel

A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo

Sweden's domestic security agency on Thursday accused Iran of using established criminal networks in Sweden as a proxy to target Israeli or Jewish interests in the Scandinavian country.
The accusations were raised at a news conference by Daniel Stenling, the head of the SAPO agency's counterespionage unit, following a series of events earlier this year.
In late January, the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm was sealed off after what was then described as “a dangerous object” was found on the grounds of the diplomatic mission in an eastern Stockholm neighborhood. Swedish media said the object was a hand grenade.
The embassy was not evacuated and the object was eventually destroyed. No arrests were made and authorities did not say what was found. On May 17, gunshots were heard near the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm and the area was cordoned off. No one was arrested.
According to The Associated Press, Stenling said, without offering specifics or evidence to back up his assertion, that the agency "can establish that criminal networks in Sweden are used as a proxy by Iran.”
“It is very much about planning and attempts to carry out attacks against Israeli and Jewish interests, goals and activities in Sweden," he said and added that the agency sees "connections between criminal individuals in the criminal networks and individuals who are connected to the Iranian security services.”
Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer and Hampus Nygårds, deputy head of the Swedish police's National Operations Department, were also at the online news conference with Stenling.
“We see this connection between the Iranian intelligence services, the security services and precisely criminals in the criminal networks in Sweden," Stenling said. “We see that connection and it also means that we need to work much more internationally to get to the crimes and be able to prevent them.”
Stenling and the others made no mention of the recent incidents connected to the Israel Embassy and stopped short of naming any criminal groups or suspects.
Sweden has grappled with gang violence for years and criminal gangs often recruit teenagers in socially disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods to carry out hits.
By May 15, police have recorded 85 shootings so far this year, including 12 fatal shootings. Last year, 53 people were killed and 109 were wounded in a total of 363 shootings.