Dutch arrest Syrian-born man suspected of war crimes

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Dutch police arrested a Syrian-born man suspected of committing war crimes in 2013 while fighting as a member of pro-Damascus militia forces in Syria's ongoing civil war, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The 34-year-old man was taken into custody in the southern town of Kerkrade after applying for asylum in the Netherlands in 2020.

He is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Brechtje van de Moosdijk, spokeswoman for the public prosecution service said.

"He is also accused of participating in an organisation whose aim is to commit international crimes," she said in a statement.

The suspect will go before a judge in a first closed-door appearance on Friday.

The suspect, who was not identified, is said to have been a member of the Liwa al-Quds militia who are loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In January 2013, he and militia members, as well as Syrian intelligence forces allegedly arrested a civilian man at his home in the al-Nayrab Palestinian refugee camp near the northwestern city of Aleppo.

"The civilian was mistreated during the arrest and later taken to a Syrian Air Force intelligence prison, where he is said to have been tortured," Van de Moosdijk said.

Syria's war is estimated to have killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions since it began with a brutal crackdown of anti-government protests in 2011.

It escalated to pull in foreign powers and global jihadists.

Militia forces "were an important link in a widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population," Van de Moosdijk said.

"They were used, for example, in the crackdown on demonstrations of civilians, and to arrest civilians."

Dutch prosecutors regard Liwa al-Quds as a criminal organisation, similar to the Islamic State group, she said.

A German court in January sentenced a former Syrian colonel to life in jail for crimes against humanity in the first global trial over state-sponsored torture in Syria.

Anwar Raslan, 58, was found guilty of overseeing the murder of 27 people and the torture of 4,000 others at the Al-Khatib detention centre in Damascus, also known as "Branch 251", in 2011 and 2012.

He had sought refuge in Germany after deserting the Syrian regime in 2012.